Journalists group urges sanctions for Haiti's president
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The leader of Reporters Without Borders
says he is asking European and U.S. officials to cancel travel visas and freeze
bank accounts of Haiti's president and 23 other officials who the journalists'
group says have allowed an erosion of press freedom.
During a visit to the Caribbean country Thursday, Reporters Without Borders
Secretary-General Robert Menard accused President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and
other officials of obstructing investigations into the killings of two reporters.
"Aristide is personally responsible for the deterioration of press freedom
and sanctions should be taken against him personally," Menard said.
The leader of the Paris-based group said officials have maintained "a climate
impunity for people who are persecuting journalists."
Menard said he had sent letters to members of the U.S. Congress and the
Union Council of Ministers, asking them to cancel entry and tourist visas and freeze
the bank accounts of top government and police officials. It was unclear how U.S.
and European officials would respond.
Justice Minister Gary Lissade, among the 24 officials on the list, said
being unfair to the government.
"We are doing what we can to reform our archaic judicial system, but Haiti
poverty-stricken and torn by political conflict," Lissade said.
Jean Dominique, Haiti's most prominent journalist, was shot as he arrived
at his radio station in April 2000, and provincial journalist Brignol Lindor was
hacked to death by a mob of alleged Aristide supporters last month.
Five alleged accomplices have been detained in Dominique's killing. No
been arrested in Lindor's killing. The investigation into Dominique's death was
stalled this month when the investigating judge's term expired, and it's not clear
when the case will be reassigned to another judge.
On December 17, after a thwarted attack on the National Palace by gunmen,
Aristide supporters assaulted at least a dozen reporters outside the building,
Reporters Without Borders said.
The alleged coup attempt was carried out by about two dozen gunmen who
over the palace for several hours.
Aristide and other top officials were unharmed, but at least 10 people
and nine wounded in the palace attack and subsequent violence.
In the tension that followed, about 10 journalists fled to the United States,
least five are in hiding in Haiti, according to Association of Haitian Journalists
Secretary-General Guyler Delva.
Dozens of journalists have reported being threatened by Aristide supporters
Aristide has condemned the violence and urged his supporters to respect
Menard arrived in Haiti on Wednesday to make contact with government officials
and Haitian reporters. He is to return to France on Friday.
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.