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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Last Updated Wednesday, December 31, 1969

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Freedom of Press in Haiti: Report Finds Haitian Journalists Face Death Threats and Intimidation

BOSTON - A report released today entitled Freedom of the Press in Haiti: The Chilling Effect on Journalists Critical of the Government documents troublesome trends of threats and intimidation journalists encountered in Haiti in violation of their freedom of expression.

The report was released by the Center for Law and Global Justice at the University of San Francisco School of Law (USF) and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and is based on interviews with Haitian and international journalists.

The first trend described by journalists was direct interference with their reporting by Haitian law enforcement and the administration of President Michel Martelly. The interference included intimidation, threats, imprisonment, destruction of media equipment, and retaliation, which has created an atmosphere of fear and a chilling effect on journalists’ freedom of expression.

The second trend described was “stonewalling” wherein journalists critical of the government were consistently denied interviews with governmental officials and access to public information. Journalists also complained of meager salaries and lack of training opportunities.

Journalists interviewed generally agreed that President Martelly had improved access to public information by holding more press conferences and engaging in social media. Nonetheless, the report finds that President Martelly’s hostility towards journalists from the beginning of his presidency in May 2011, coupled with threats intimidation and attacks from anonymous sources is troubling.

“Freedom of opinion and expression constitute the foundation of every free and democratic society,” said Nicole Phillips, Esq., Assistant Director for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law and lead author of the report. She added, “If the Haitian government is serious about strengthening its democracy, it will take affirmative steps to address its ongoing violations of freedom of expression and protect the media.”

The report urges the international community and donor countries to provide the Haitian government and civil society with financial and technical support to investigate and prosecute threats and violence against journalists to send a clear message that violations of the right to freedom of expression will not be tolerated.

The report also recommends that Haitian public agencies make every effort to ensure easy, prompt, effective and practical access to public information.

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