PORT-AU-PRINCE – A press freedom organization is urging the Haitian government to provide the judge assigned to investigate the murder of journalist Jean Dominique with the resources he needs to begin work.
Guy Delva, the Secretary General of SOS Journalistes, called on the Ministry of Justice Monday, to assign Judge Yvickel Dabresil with proper security, a vehicle, and money for travel expenses.
Dabresil said he wrote a letter to the ministry on August 5 asking for four police officers, a jeep, as well as money for fuel and travel expenses. But he said so far he’d only received a pickup truck, 2 police officers, about half the funds he needed for gas and nothing for travel expenses.
Dabresil said a pick-up truck wasn’t safe, “anyone can get in the back of a pickup.” He believes the investigation should take him three months but without proper security and funds he hasn’t been able to start working.
Jean Dominique, the founder of Radio Haiti Inter, the country’s first independent radio station, was killed on April 3, 2000. To date no one has been charged with his murder.
Underscoring the close friendship Dominique had with President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis, Delva said there was no better time for an investigation to take place. “If it isn’t done under this government” said Delva, “the case will be buried.” Delva added that he’d met with a number of credible witnesses in Haiti and overseas who said they were ready to testify.
Delva said he planned to hold events across the country to discuss the life and work of Jean Dominique in the hopes of raising awareness about the case and mobilizing people to pressure the authorities to see that justice was served.
Meanwhile SOS Journalistes made public the names of 15 people recently charged in the murder of journalist Jacques Roche.
The TV talk-show host and cultural editor at the daily, Le Matin, was kidnapped on July 10, 2005. His mutilated body was discovered four days later. 2 people have already received life sentences in the case.
Press freedom in Haiti has improved in recent years, a reality noted by last week’s annual ranking by Reporters Without Borders. Haiti climbed 16 places to number 57 out of 175 countries – up from 125th in 2004.
But while violence against journalists has decreased and people are beginning to be tried for attacks on the press, harassment continues.
This summer Sainlus Augustin, a reporter for Radio Kiskeya and the Voice of America in the Central Plateau, had his home shot at. Augustin said the attack was retribution from a local deputy and senatorial candidate who was displeased by his reporting on ballot stuffing during elections in April.
Speaking from a secret location where he is in hiding with his family, Augustin told the Haitian Times he didn’t know when he’d be able to return to his home in Hinche or his old job.
“My wife was pregnant when the shooting happened,” said Augustin. “She was so stressed, the doctor had to induce labor to save her and our child.”
Unable to work, the father of three gets by with help from SOS Journalistes, Reporters Without Borders and the U.S. embassy.
Augustin said he’d filed a complaint with the authorities in June but nothing had come of it.