The killing of Haitian journalists Tysson Lartigue and Frantzsen Charles highlights needs to better prepare reporters covering dangerous areas, a media leader says.
PORT-AU-PRINCE — The killing of journalists Frantzsen Charles and Tayson Lartigue has led to calls to better prepare and protect journalists in Haiti, especially those new to the field and eager to establish their reputations by covering dangerous assignments.
Charles and Lartigue were among seven journalists who went to Cité Soleil to interview the mother of Christella Delva, 17. The girl had been killed while riding in a van on Sept. 10, when a stray bullet struck her in the head. As the group of reporters left the neighborhood on motorcycles, alleged gang members fired on Charles and Lartigue.
“The team was targeted,” Ricot Librun, a colleague, told The Haitian Times three days after the Sept. 12 killing. “The bandits allowed a motorcycle taxi driver who was on the road pass before they started shooting.”
Latigue reported for ‘Ti Jenn Jounalis’, an online news site that he had founded, while Charles reported for the online newspaper FS News Haïti. Both covered local news, especially violence by the armed gangs that have been growing in strength in recent years in the capital.
Their deaths bring the number of Haitian journalists killed on the job this year to five, according to Dieudonné St-Cyr, secretary of the Collective of Online Media (CMEL). On Jan. 6 gang members shot two reporters, John Wesley Amady and Wilguens Louis-Saint, after they finished reporting on violence in Fessard locality in Laboule 12. On Feb. 23, Maxyben Lazarre died when armed men in police uniforms shot into a crowd of demonstrators.
“Press freedom is greatly threatened in Haiti, especially over the past 10 years,” St-Cyr said. “They are threatened not only by bandits but also by police officers who sometimes take journalists for their enemies and attack them or consider them allies of bandits when they [journalists] go to the slums area to do their work.”
St-Cyr also criticized the owners of some online media outlets who push young journalists, many eager but without the experience to investigate complicated assignments, for the sake of views and followers.
“These are sensational media, they live off the scoops and hot subjects,” St-Cyr said. “I ask these owners to help these young professionals to better practice their profession and to protect themselves to prevent them from losing their lives in these circumstances.”
CEMEL was helping the parents find the bodies of their children who remained in Cité-Soleil, but St-Cyr fears the worst.
“According to our sources, unfortunately the bandits burned the bodies of the two young journalists. Therefore, the parents may not be able to recover the bodies,” he said.
St-Cyr hopes that the police will at least follow up so that justice is done.