Haiti is still digging itself out — literally, financially, politically and culturally — from the devastating earthquake of January 2010, while the Haitian news media, crucial for keeping a critical eye on the complex rebuilding effort, is struggling to find sure footing amidst the rubble, reports the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).
The CJR's William Wheeler recounts a debate among foreign journalists in Port-au-Prince about whether the priority for young Haitian media workers should be to learn proper ethical behavior and the value of striving to be objective, or whether a grasp of technical skills were more important if they were going to find work. He suggested: "Haiti needs pragmatism and idealism in equal measure."
But dangers remain for Haitian journalists. Two radio journalists were arrested and detained June 22, an action considered by Reporters Without Borders to "constitute an abuse of authority and a form of censorship."
In February this year, Jean Richard Louis-Charles, a 30-year-old journalist working for Radio Kiskeya, was shot to death in Haiti, an incident marred by murky facts and little clarification by the police, Reporters Without Borders reported.
Not only were 30 journalists killed and 13 injured in the earthquake that left more than 300,000 people dead and 1.3 million homeless, Wheeler notes, but advertising revenue was severely impacted because of the destruction of businesses, and infrastructure was demolished in a country where radio is the most dominant source of news. Graft is also a problem as sources pay reporters for positive coverage. Wheeler quotes Mario Viau, managing director of Signal FM radio station, admitting it is an issue executives like himself monitor. “But sometimes you have to close one eye on the subject because you know they have to get by.”
However, there may be one bright spot on the media landscape as an investigation by Haitian journalism students into reconstruction efforts showed some workers paid a fee to get a job worth $5 U.S. a day, while some women reportedly offered sex in exchange for work. The students were assisted by Haiti Grassroots Watch, also known as Ayiti Kale Je and Haïti Veedor, which is in turn supported by International Media Support, a non-profit based in Copenhagen.