Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How independent journalism can have an effect

As many progressive, principled journalists will tell you, dear reader, the road trod by reporters genuinely trying to make this world a better place is not an easy one. Dangerous locales, long hours, little pay and no security (I myself have had health insurance for about one year out of the last seven) are par for the course of the journalist's life in this sense. But, despite all that, once in a while, an important message breaks through.

When some inspired soul from Connecticut wrote to Senator Christopher J. Dodd and Representative Christopher Murphy “to demand the sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic (i.e. the Haitian immigrants and those of Haitian descent) be guaranteed full civil and labor rights in exchange for the Dominican Republic's right to sell sugar in the USA,” and in doing so quoted my March 13th article for Inter Press Service, Exhibit Reveals a Bitter Harvest, which chronicled the Esclaves au Paradis: L'esclavage contemporain en République Dominicaine (Slaves in Paradise: Contemporary Slavery in the Dominican Republic) exhibition in Paris, it was just such a moment.

The article, which also referred to the cases of Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosico Cofi, the struggle of Dominican activist Sonia Pierre and the work of Father Christopher Hartley, was one of two I wrote on the subject of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, and, taken in tandem with the Appeal to Decency on behalf of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent that I delivered at the Journalists & Editors Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean in Miami, Florida in May of this year, represent my attempt to present an honest picture of some of the issues involved in the largest immigration question confronting the island of Hispaniola at present.

It is good to know that the word is getting out.

The rain is falling here in Paris and the strike is about to begin.


Babette said...

And you are one of the BEST independent journalists that I have ever read.

May the road rise up to meet you.

You will be amply rewarded for your honesty and courage.

Noelle said...

i'm with babette on that one.

keep doing what you do! we are reading...

Jean Bertin said...

I am a Haitian who lives in the Dominican Republic and have been doing so for years. I have read your post about the life of Haitians in the sugar cane plantations in the Dominican Republic and I must say I don’t agree with your points of view. As a Haitian, I have been able to see the life my brothers have in this country and some of the allegations that have been made by filmmakers, religious man and human rights activist are far from reality. It is not true that all Haitians that come to Dominican Republic work in sugar plantations and that they get treated like slaves, some work in other industries such as construction or tourism, others go to Dominican universities and have professional jobs. It is sad that a journalist such as yourself dedicates efforts to denounce situations that are far from the truth and that are harmful to the future of the relations of two countries that share the same piece of land and that have been doing so, harmoniously, since the beginning of time. Maybe you could also consider presenting the other side of the life that Haitians have in Dominican Republic.

Michael Deibert said...

Thanks, Babette and Noelle.

Monsieur Bertin, thank you also for your post.

From you comment, I am not sure if you have actually read my writing on Haitians and the Dominican Republic. When you write that “it is not true that all Haitians that come to Dominican Republic work in sugar plantations,” I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, in my “Appeal to Decency on behalf of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent” delivered at the Journalists & Editors Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean in Miami in May of this year, I stated the following:

"The lure of a better life in the Dominican Republic has proved irresistible to many Haitians, and currently there are an estimated 650,000 to one million undocumented Haitians living there. Though traditionally these Haitians have labored in the sugarcane fields, known as bateys, owned by individuals such as the Cuban-American sugar barons Alfonso and Pepe Fanjul, and the wealthy Vicini family, who are also owners of the Diario Libre newspaper, recently Haitians have also taken jobs in such urban endeavors as construction, auto repair and working in the country’s booming resorts. In the last several years, great tension has erupted between Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian-descent in the Dominican Republic, their advocates, the Fernández government and some of those in the country’s economic elite. Though many of the country’s industries, including the sugar and construction industries, are largely dependant on immigrant Haitian labor, an increasingly assertive movement for immigrant and worker rights in the Dominican Republic, spearheaded by such individuals as Movimiento De Mujeres Dominico Haitiana (MUDHA) leader Sonia Pierre (herself born in a batey) and the Anglo-Spanish priest Father Christopher Hartley, have met with fierce resistance. The hostility between the Haitians and those who, on one hand, need their labor but on the other hand resent what they view as their ingratitude, as well as between the Haitians and poor Dominicans who view the Haitians as usurping their jobs and working for lower wages, has often erupted into violence."

These observations don’t come from a theory, but rather from many years spent living and working in Haiti and many trips to the Dominican Republic.

I don’t think that it is ever a “sad” endeavor to shine a spotlight on injustice.