Skyline International Stands Against the Targeting of Journalists Amidst Rising Violence in Haiti
Stockholm: Skyline International, a leading independent news organization committed to promoting press freedom and defending journalists' rights worldwide, is deeply alarmed and condemns in the strongest terms the escalating violence and deliberate targeting of journalists in Haiti.
In recent weeks, Haiti has become a battleground for heinous acts of violence, including home invasions, arson attacks, and gang-related assaults. Of grave concern is the fact that the country's journalists have increasingly become the targets of these brutal incidents.
Amidst this harrowing situation, at least five Haitian journalists have been compelled to flee their homes in the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. These disturbing developments can be traced back to the aftermath of the tragic assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, which plunged Haiti into a state of insecurity and chaos. Gangs have since engaged in a violent struggle for control and dominance within the capital.
The gravity of the crisis prompted Human Rights Watch to declare last month that "the Haitian government has failed to protect people" from a wave of attacks, kidnappings, and sexual violence. One such victim is Arnold Junior Pierre, a Haitian journalist, who recently left his home, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
On August 31, armed gang members forcefully entered Pierre's residence, a radio broadcaster, and set the building ablaze, forcing Pierre and 15 of his family members to flee to safety. Pierre, speaking to CPJ, expressed his profound fear for his life, unable to pinpoint what specific news coverage may have triggered this violent attack.
Pierre had previously been in grave danger while covering a protest in the southwestern side of Port-au-Prince on July 31 when he was assaulted and beaten by a group of men. Furthermore, he disclosed that he had received death threats from a police officer.
The month of July also witnessed assailants setting fire to local station Radio Antarctique and several other buildings, with two journalists briefly kidnapped during these incidents. Shockingly, reports indicate that as many as nine reporters have been abducted in Haiti since the beginning of this year.
The increasing violence and systematic targeting of media professionals have raised serious concerns among journalism advocacy groups. Cristina Zahar, Latin America and Caribbean program coordinator for CPJ, expressed profound apprehension, stating, "We are watching with grave concern as the situation in Haiti reaches new levels of bloodshed."
Skyline International echoes these concerns and calls for immediate international attention and intervention to safeguard the lives and rights of journalists operating in Haiti amidst these perilous circumstances. The situation is dire, with figures from the United Nations underscoring the gravity of the crisis, including 2,439 lives lost, 902 injuries, and 951 kidnappings between January 1 and August 15 of this year.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) conducted an assessment of Haiti in 2023, branding the country as one of the most perilous in the region for journalists, who increasingly face vilification and vulnerability. Artur Romeu, the director of the Latin America bureau at RSF, voiced his concern, noting, "Haitian journalists were already risking their lives whenever they went into the field, but now they are in danger even when at home."
According to RSF, at least six journalists lost their lives in connection with their work in Haiti in 2022.
Skyline International stands in solidarity with the journalists of Haiti and calls on the international community to prioritize the protection of journalists and the promotion of press freedom in the country. Journalists play a vital role in informing the public and fostering transparency, and their safety must be ensured in the pursuit of their critical work.