Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Letter regarding Amnesty International release

(I sent the following note to Amnesty International after reading their press release Amnesty International condemns murder of journalist. I received a thoughtful response to my concerns, but believe that some of the issues raised in the original message itself might be of interest to readers. MD)

Greetings. My name is Michael Deibert and I am a journalist who has been visiting Haiti since 1997 and served as Reuters correspondent there from 2001 until 2003. In addition, I have written extensively about the country over the last decade for publications such as Newsday,
The Miami Herald and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In its most timely and necessary release following the murder of Jean-Rémy Badio, Amnesty International condemns murder of journalist, Amnesty International states the following when chronicling the murders of journalists in Haiti over the last seven years:

Jean Léopold Dominique along with Jean Claude Louissaint, murdered in Port-au-Prince on 3 April 2000;
Brignol Lindor, found dead in Acul (near Petite Goâve) on 3 December 2003;
Abdias Jean, allegedly extrajudicially executed by police officers on 7 January 2005;
Jacques Roche, found dead on 15 July 2005.

I think I am not alone in worrying that, while Jean Léopold Dominique Jean Claude Louissaint and Abdias Jean are quite correctly listed as having been "murdered" and "allegedly extrajudicially executed by police officers," respectively, the journalists Brignol Lindor and Jacques Roche are simply listed as having been "found dead," with no further elaboration as to the circumstances of their murders.

Around this time five years ago, in my capacity as the Reuters correspondent in Port-au-Prince, I reported on the murder of Brignol Lindor by a gang named Domi Nan Bwa (Sleeping in the Woods), who were loyal to then-Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On December 3, 2001, Lindor, the news director of Radio Echo 2000 in the provincial town of Petit Goave was macheted and beaten to death by Domi Nan Bwa members following a similar though non-lethal attack against Domi Nan Bwa member Joseph Céus Duverger (in which Lindor had no involvement). Lindor's radio program "Dialogue," which often featured speakers strongly denouncing the Aristide government and local officials, had drawn the ire of Petit Goave's mayor, Dume Bony, a member of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas political party, who had held a press conference immediately preceding the killing and, seated next to Domi Nan Bwa's leader Raymond Jean Fleury, called for the application of "zero tolerance" to be directed at Lindor. I recall that, shortly after the killing, in his capacity as the secretary-general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, Reuters' current correspondent in Haiti, Joseph Guyler Delva, spoke to the leaders of Domi Nan Bwa, who freely admitted their role in the murder.

Thus there is no mystery whatsoever as to how, when, where, why and by whom Brignol Lindor was murdered.

Likewise in the case of Jacques Roche, there is no dispute as to what befell him, be there as it may dispute over the culprits. An editor at the newspaper Le Matin who had worked extensively to protest the brutal treatment of Haiti's peasants on the country's Maribahoux plain and hosted a television program where members of political parties and civil society groups -- frequently including members of a civil coalition that helped drive Aristide from power in 2004 - would discuss the issues of the day, Roche was kidnapped in July 2005 and his body then found on a road in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, his wrists handcuffed, his arms broken and the coup de grace having been administered with a bullet to the head .

Amidst the violence that is still afflicting Haiti today, putting these crimes in the proper context, I would argue, is a very important contribution to the world's larger understanding of how to help end them. It is not a mere matter of semantics, but rather a decision to provide the full information for concerned citizens abroad who seek to genuinely help Haiti in its hour of need, irrespective of political parties and ever-mindful of the worth of every life lost and the need for a full accounting by those in power for their roles, in any, in taking those lives.

I am sure that you share these concerns.


Michael Deibert

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