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Journalists targeted in post-election riots in Haiti

Riot-hit: A poster of Haiti's presidential candidate Jude Celestin is seen along a street after four days of protest in Port-au-Prince December 10, 2010. Thousands of protesters rampaged through Haiti's streets to contest election results. In an attempt to defuse the unrest, electoral authorities said they would recheck vote tally sheets.

Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) is worried about the dangers for Haitian and foreign journalists from the rioting that has shaken the country since the widely disputed results of the general elections were announced on December 7.

Although the media have so far been largely spared, RSF urge the supporters of the various parties and alliances to refrain from turning the media into hostages of their political rivalry. RSF said it was concerned about several recent incidents involving journalists and appealed for calm and for talks.

Many of the angry protests have been staged by the supporters of singer and presidential candidate Michel Martelly, who – according to the official results – was narrowly squeezed out of the second round run-off by Jude Célestin of the INITE alliance, the candidate backed by outgoing President René Préval. Although accused of rigging the elections, Célestin is far behind the front-runner, former First Lady Mirlande Manigat.

Ever since the announcement of the results, which have also been questioned by Haiti’s donors, supporters of the eliminated candidates have been expressing their anger by barricading streets with burning tyres. Radio Lebon FM, a local radio station based in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, was ransacked on the evening of December 7, but it appears this was because its owner, Fritz Carlos Lebon, is an INITE senate candidate.

Amid an increase in violence Thursday morning, Esther Dorestal of privately-owned Radio Métropole was stopped and threatened by young Martelly supporters in Port-au-Prince as she was travelling to work on a motor-cycle taxi. At the same time, people claiming to be protesters robbed Patrice Mérisier of Radio Galaxie outside the former headquarters of the Provisional Electoral Council.

A cameraman employed by the online news agency Haiti Press Network was reportedly attacked outside the National Palace by people who accused his news media of supporting the rigging of the elections. The British news agency Reuters reported that one of its journalists was robbed.

The barricades and riots are making it difficult for journalists to move about the capital, which has been in ruins since the January 12 earthquake. The Media Operations Centre which RSF and the Canadian company Quebecor installed nine days after the earthquake is normally very busy but has been virtually deserted since the start of the rioting.

Date posted: December 13, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 134