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Two detained in case of Haitian photojournalist who went missing in mid-March

Update (April 4): Haitian National Police (PNH, for its initials in French) said on April 4 that it has detained two people allegedly related to the disappearance of photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur who was last seen on March 14.

According to Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, Frantz Lerebours, spokesman for the PNH, said the two suspects had the photojournalist's cell phone.

Lerebours also said that human bones found on March 28 in Grand Ravine, outside Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, will be sent abroad for DNA analysis, The Gleaner reported.

Original Story (March 29): Haitian photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur has been missing since March 14 from Port-au-Prince. Police are currently investigating human remains found in the area where he disappeared.

Legagneur, 30, had been working as a freelancer in Grand Ravine, which the Miami Herald describes as a “gang-ridden Port-au-Prince neighborhood” the day he disappeared, according to the paper.

His wife, Fleurette Guerrier, said they had agreed to check in two hours after the last time they spoke, but when she called, she never got a response, the Herald reported. She then filed a missing person’s report two days later “and said she never heard back.”

Local, national and international journalism, freedom of expression and human rights organizations have called for police attention to the case in the weeks that followed the disappearance. On March 29, police said partial remains and a hat were found in Grand Ravine after an operation into the neighborhood was ordered by Police Chief Michel-Ange Gédéon, the Miami Herald reported.

Fellow photojournalist, Pierre Michel Jean told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Legagneur was working on an independent project on the aftermath of conflicts between police and gangs in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

Two police officers and several civilians died during a police raid in Grand Ravine in November, the Miami Herald reported.

“The deaths have raised questions about what happened during the anti-gang operation. Gang members have remained suspicious of outsiders, and police have been reluctant to go in,” according to the Herald. “Even United Nations peacekeepers, before their withdrawal from Haiti in October, often steered clear of the community.”

Legagneur previously worked for newspaper Le Matin, online news agency Loop Haïti and other outlets and nongovernmental organizations, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF, for its acronym in French).

Journalists and relatives of Legagneur held a silent march in Port-au-Prince on March 28 “to denounce the passivity of the authorities” in the case, according to Radio Television Caraibes.

The previous day, the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) expressed concern about the silence of police and judicial authorities following Legagneur’s disappearance and urged them to find their colleague, according to the Jamaica Observer.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged Haitian authorities to locate Legagneur.

“In addition to protecting the rights to life and personal integrity of Legagneur, the State must direct a thorough investigation into the alleged events that led to his disappearance,” the Office said, according to a press release.

RSF, CPJ, The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other international organizations have echoed those demands.

CPJ noted, “Cases of violence against journalists in Haiti often remain in impunity. April 3 will mark 18 years since the murder of Jean Léopold Dominique, the owner and director of the independent station Radio Haïti Inter, who was shot dead in 2000.” The organization added that his death “remains unsolved.”

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