Amid attacks, journalists demand guarantees for election coverage from outgoing Haitian president

Journalists in Haiti and the Dominican Republic urged the current Haitian President Michel Martelly to give them all guarantees necessary to properly cover the electoral process, which, they say, is taking place in the midst of attacks on freedom of expression by the outgoing government.

In a letter of protest published on Jan. 30, they denounced the harassment by officials of Martelly’s government against journalists of Haiti's Radio Caraibes and Radio Zenith, the armed attack against the premises of Radio Kiskeya late last year and the recent verbal aggression from the head of state to journalist Liliane Pierre-Paul, director of programming for Radio Kiskeya.

In an interview on Radio-tele Metropol on Jan. 21, Martelly declared that the press was transmitting lies against his government. In the same broadcast, the president released part of a carnivalesque merengue whose lyrics denigrate, in particular, Pierre-Paul.

Martelly, also known in the music industry as "Sweet Micky," launched last Sunday (Jan. 31) a carnival song in which he also criticized the opposition, in addition to the respected Haitian journalist and active defender of freedom of expression and democracy, Pierre-Paul, against whom he used "sexist metaphors," according to El Nuevo Herald.

The president previously accused Pierre-Paul of attacking the life of his son Olivier Martelly, to which she replied: "You threaten me, follow me and harass me (...) You have attempted to discredit us, pretending that there are journalists trying blackmail you to get money.” She also denied the president’s accusations against her.

"We draw attention to international public opinion about these shameful events that constitute a serious attack on freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas," the Central American journalists said in their letter to the president, calling on him to respect democracy.

Martelly must leave the presidency on Feb. 7 by constitutional order, leaving the country mired in a political crisis, with no date for the second round of presidential elections.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.