By Sam Naik
Two Haitian journalists said they were repeatedly beaten by Haitian President Michel Martelly’ssecurity agents when the president visited RFM radio’s headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 12, reported news site Defend.HT.
The two reporters were assaulted during Martelly’s visit to RFM's temporary headquarters aboard the Adriana, a floating carnival hotel. According to Watson Phanor, one of the journalists involved, Martelly’s security agents attacked them after accusing them of having been in contact with Jean-Charles Moïse, a Senator who has been critical of the president, and allegedly broadcasting false reports of police beatings during Carnival celebrations.
The owner of RFM, Rotchild François, Jr. released a statement condemning the attacks and calling for punishment of the security agents responsible. The government has denied the accusations, and National Palace press secretary Lucien Jura condemned physical aggression against any Haitian citizen.
The attack follows the expulsion of a press team from RTVC on Feb. 9 from a ball at Sans Souci Palace, as reported by the newspaper Le Nouvelliste. The reporters were forced to turn off their cameras and barred from the premises, though they had received an invitation. According to an anonymous RTVC employee, Martelly has declared the station “media non grata” for supporting his opponent Myrlande Manigat in the most recent presidential election.
The Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH) has denounced the attack aboard the Adriana, and its Secretary General Jacques Desrosiers said he was “shocked” to learn that presidential security attacked Watson, according to Defend.HT. In the same statement, the AJH lamented the expulsion of RTVC from Sans Souci Palace and the warning from Minister of Justice Jean Renel Sanon that the government would “severely punish” reporters who engaged in defamation or calls to violence during Carnival celebrations. The National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) has also denounced the attack.
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.