January 27, 2015
Yesterday, Radio Kiskeya made public a letter from leaders of the station to Lucien Jura, spokesperson of the presidency, alleging that President Martelly had personally given cash to journalists at a meeting in December. The letter begins:
Radio Tele Kiskeya hereby wishes to protest – to the president of the Republic and to you [presidential spokesperson Lucien Jura] in particular – the ignoble act of corruption that you were both responsible for last December 23 when, following a reception which you invited journalists with National Palace accreditation to, you delivered envelopes to them containing fifty thousand gourdes (50,000.00 Gdes) and forty thousand gourdes (40,000.00 Gdes).
According to the information received from the concerned parties, the president of the Republic, Michel Joseph Martelly, personally offered them “a little gift that’s so modest that it’s not worth mentioning.” Subsequently, he referred them to his spokesperson, Lucien JURA, and to Esther FATAL, head of the communication office of the Presidency, who personally delivered to each one of them the ignoble seal [envelope with presidential seal] beneath the glare of the palace cameras.
The letter reports that 3 Radio Kiskeya journalists received the payment and have been “severely sanctioned.” The letter continues, writing that the actions at the National Palace reflect “the general level of deterioration of moral values at both the state level and within all of society, including the press unfortunately.”
Today, Shearon Roberts, an assistant professor of Mass Communication at Xavier University of Louisiana, writes about the situation facing Haitian journalists, five years after the earthquake:
Haiti’s media landscape had been divided before the earthquake along political lines. The disaster brought media factions together as news organizations faced limited resources, ongoing political-socio-economic crises and a strong adversary in the government of President Michel Martelly.
“The Haitian state does not want freedom of the press that is not in their interest,” said Liliane Pierre-Paul, president of the Association National de Médias Haïtiens (ANMH), Haiti’s largest media organization. “They do no wish to respect transparency. They do no want to have awareness among the population, and they do not approve of our reporting that denounces their behavior in government.”
The government often takes weeks to get back to Haitian journalists, while in the meantime granting interviews to international journalists, Roberts reports. In some cases critical journalists have been barred from press conferences and are obstructed in efforts to obtain information. While less brutal than under Duvalier, Roberts writes that “the current tactics employed by the Haitian state and its supporters have served to dissuade journalists from critical, advocacy, and investigative journalism that could change the current conditions of ordinary Haitians or the existing political status quo.”
In addition to the State, NGOs have also played a detrimental role according to Roberts’ report:
Haitian news organizations now face a strong competitor in non-governmental agencies who would like to hire journalists with talents, said Max Chauvet, the owner of Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s oldest newspaper and current paper of record.
The millions of international aid that flows to non-governmental organizations mean that radio stations receive more advertisements from NGOs and that NGOs, in turn, seek out Haitian journalists as employees, Chauvet said.
Haitian news organizations are outnumbered 10 to 1 by NGOs who seek to communicate their agenda across the airwaves, in print and in broadcast ads that read like news articles.
“They have the means that we don’t have, so it is gonna be a tough fight. We can only influence the government,” Chauvet said.
Roberts’ article, which was based on interviews with Haitian journalists conducted since 2013, also takes a look at the impact of Ayiti Kale Je, “a consortium of alternative and community news networks,” that produced over 30 investigative reports. The reports influenced mainstream coverage and were distributed widely through radio broadcasts as well. A full list of Ayiti Kale Je investigations can be found here.