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Posted August 6, 2011

Freedom of the Press Muzzled in Haiti 

By Romeo Estinvil  

Last week during the launch of periodical “Magic Haiti” that is devoted to promoting tourism in Haiti, President Michel Martelly affirmed that the local media has greatly contributed to send abroad a shocking image of the nation. “I do not listen, I do not read them”, he stated in essence. No one would challenge the opinion that a head of state should have showed more esteem for journalists.

Why this inopportune statement is not supposed to astonish anyone? Since taking office, President Martelly has been hostile to the media, even during the election campaign; he tried to intimidate a reporter using popular reprisal as a token. In our political lexicon this would mean blazing noncompliant media or even murder some reporters. In this case, numerous illustrations may have been mentioned. 

In Jacmel, a South Eastern town of Haiti, at the inauguration of “Magic Haiti”; security agents jostled a photographer who was about to take Mr. Martelly pictures. The President had incredibly taken of his shirt because it was too humid in a conference room of his hotel. The primary mission of the media is not to look for conflicts with this new administration. On the other hand, those leaders are obliged to realize they cannot continue to run the country with relentless threats and with such erratic behavior; with this approach Mr. Martelly would not be able to transform the country’s image like he promoted throughout his swearing in as President.

The political elite thinks President Martelly may be determined to embark the media on a conflict that will be harmful to the welfare of this country we all feel affection for. Everybody expects that he would come clean about why he wants to have litigious rapports with journalists. In an emerging democratic system, the media must channel information between government and people. And, this key sector of live should always strive to revere the journalistic deontology. It is often said that the press is a mirror of society.

In the meantime, members of the press are really anxious; they don’t know for certain what tomorrow will bring. For Mr. Jacques Derosiers, the general secretary of the Association of Haitian Journalist (AHJ), “these statements are harmful to freedom of the press”. To sum up, Mr. Desrosiers reminded the President “freedom of the press is not a present, but a right acquired at the price of great struggle and sacrifices”.

According to Daly Valet, managing director of the daily ‘‘Le Matin’’, Martelly’s conduct is characteristic of the presidents and regimes whose records are weak to the demands of a population that has become increasingly challenging and impatient”. ‘‘The press has always been the ideal scapegoat in these cases’’, concluded Mr. Valet.

“We note a bad state of mind of the executive branch in respect of the press and the way journalists do their job. ‘‘Freedom of speech is a given constitutionally guaranteed in Article 28’’. Any Haitian citizen may express his thoughts by the way he chooses, said Herold Jean Francois Radio Ibo’s manager.

 The government appears to forget that to improve in fact the tourism industry, the Haitian people needs more than campaign slogans. We do not offer suitable structures to achieve this gracious goal. In our views, this administration has to start creating these structures and establishing a minimum political stability. Haiti promptly requires this stability in order to attain expansions in our condition of life. We’re not somewhat sure the executive branch would come to crystallize few of the President’s pledges when it will have to deal with members of congress as obstructionist and dogmatist as the Senator from the North, Moises Jean-Charles.

Mr. Jean-Charles did not honor the historic and valiant North of Henry Christophe. Political analysts are undivided in recognizing that Carlet Auguste, Claude Vixamar, Paul Magloire or even Gusto Robinson has no political heir. This senator, who is not too rational in his thoughts, was not elected by voters, but chosen by the electoral council of Gaillot Dorsainvil. This fact is well known throughout the country.

In conclusion, be aware that the assignment ahead of the new administration is huge. Congress, which is co-custodian of Haiti’s “national sovereignty”, must let Mr. Martelly to choose without restraint the head of his government. Politicians, who failed miserably in a not remote past, should have the decency to give up allowing the country to breathe out. If not, the people will have to decide and only the most righteous will be spared. 


Romeo Estinvil

The author of this column, sure a contribution to the long cause of democracy in Haiti, can be reached at; estinro@hotmail.com

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