Freedom of Expression

Press Release 86/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Eduardo A. Bertoni, on the occasion of his presence in Haiti for the seminar on freedom of expression organized by the Special Mission of the OAS in Haiti, released on July 23 the Report on the State of Freedom of Expression in Haiti, prepared by the Office of the Special Rapporteur and approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  

The report combines the information gathered by the Special Rapporteur during his participation in the two visits of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Haiti , which took place in May and August of 2002, as well as information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur before, during and after these visits.  

According to the report, freedom of expression in Haiti does not enjoy all of the guarantees necessary for its full exercise.  

"In Haiti, the exercise of freedom of expression has resulted, in some cases, in the deaths of journalists and threats to social communicators, politicians, judges, trade union organizers and leaders critical of the political process in Haiti in recent years (…) The assassinations of journalists Jean Léopold Dominique and Brignol Lindor as well as the constant possibility of reprisals because of what is investigated, printed, or disseminated leads to self-censorship on the part of many media outlets and social communicators", the report concludes.  

The lack of compliance on the part of the State in its obligation to expose, try and sanction those responsible for the assassinations and acts of harassment against journalists contributes to the intimidation and, therefore, to the self-censorship of social communicators. "Impunity in the investigation of these attacks to journalists and media also contributes to create an environment of intimidation and harassment of the full exercise of the freedom of expression in Haiti ", notes the report.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also confirmed that some norms contained in Haiti 's laws and Constitution, when applied, could diminish freedom of expression, particularly the penal norms that refer to the crime of desacato (contempt) and that contradict the dispositions of the American Convention on Human Rights.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur recommends that the government of Haiti take all of the necessary measures to protect the physical integrity of social communicators and the infrastructure of communications media outlets, undertake a serious, impartial and effective investigation of the acts of violence against them, and try and punish those responsible for violations of freedom of expression.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also urges the repeal of the penal norms that establish the crime of desacato , the promotion of progressive measures to facilitate access to state-held information and the adoption of the legal means necessary to eliminate any qualification that can create, in practice, an obstacle to the exercise of freedom of expression, such as the requirement of veracity or impartiality in the content of information emitted by radio stations.  

The complete text of the report is available at:   

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
July 23, 2003
Washington , D.C