Ex-Haitian dictator "Baby Doc" faces journalist's abuse accusations and an aggressive free press

Prominent Haitian journalist Michele Montas, along with three former political prisoners, has filed a criminal lawsuit against former dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, accusing him of torture, illegal detention, and violations of civil and political rights, reported the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Montas, an award-winning radio journalist and former UN spokesperson, was threatened, arrested, and even survived an assassination attempt, all related to her journalistic work. Her husband Jean Dominique's independent radio station was shut down during Duvalier's rule, forcing Montas and Dominique into exile, CNN said. Then, after returning to Haiti, Dominique was assassinated in 2000 for reporting on government corruption.

Duvalier, who fled to France in 1986, returned to Haiti earlier this month after being ousted 25 years ago by a popular revolt. Besides being sued for torture and crimes against humanity, the former dictator also has been charged by prosecutors with theft and misappropriation of funds stemming from his time as "president for life," the BBC reported.

Since his return, Duvalier has been dogged by Haiti's "free and feisty" press, according to NPR. "'Baby Doc' Duvalier, as president, cowed the press, using his dreaded secret police, the Tonton Macoute, to make reporters stay in line...Twenty-five years later when he flew back in from exile, the reporters were so aggressive that security forces used pepper spray and batons to keep them away from the toppled dictator."

Duvalier's return comes as Haiti still is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake one year ago.

Other Related Headlines:
» Reuters (Haiti's "Baby Doc" is back: but for love or money?)

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.