Inter-American Commission of Human Rights Condemns Rising Violence Against Journalists in Haiti

By: Molly Osinoff 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – On October 3, 2023, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) published a statement condemning the increasing violence against journalists and media outlets in Haiti. The statement further urged Haitian authorities to “investigate in a thorough, effective, and impartial manner what happened, to prosecute and punish those responsible…”  

People carry a journalist who was tear gassed by the police during a protest over the death of journalist Romelo Vilsaint in Port-au-Prince | Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

Haitian journalists have faced increasing violence in Haiti. Numerous journalists have been the victims of threats, abuse, and murder. In September 2022, while reporting in an area in the capital controlled by gangs, two reporters were fatally shot, and their bodies were set on fire. In August 2023, gunmen set fire to journalist Arnold Junior Pierre’s home. He had, weeks earlier, been assaulted by a group of unidentified people. In September 2023, at least twelve journalists fled their homes in the Carrefour Feuilles district, which is home to many journalists, in the wake of increased violence by gangs controlling the area. Media facilities have also been subject to attack. Gang members allegedly set a radio station facility on fire in July 2023. 

Haiti’s Constitution specifically addresses the right to freedom of expression. Article 28 of the Haitian Constitution protects the right to express one’s opinion freely by any means. Furthermore, the Constitution also addresses journalists. Article 28-1 states: “Journalists shall freely exercise their profession within the framework of the law. Such exercise may not be subject to any authorization or censorship, except in the case of war.” To further support journalists, the Constitution states that offenses involving the press and abuses of freedom of expression are to be considered under the code of criminal law.  

The violence journalists face is part of the rising gang violence that has been overwhelming Haiti since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Since then, no leader has been elected. Armed gangs have taken control of up to 90 percent of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, engaging in widespread public killing, rape, and displacement. Between January 2023 and early August 2023, according to the United Nations, more than 2,400 people in Haiti were reported killed, and more than 950 people in Haiti were kidnapped. Over 200,000 people have fled their homes. Because journalists cover the extent of gang violence, they are often the victims of brutal attacks or murders by armed gangs seeking to maintain their power. 

As RELE emphasizes, violence against journalists violates the fundamental rights of individuals and freedom of expression. Violence affects more than the journalists themselves and their family members. Instead, the violence against journalists affects society as a whole by preventing citizens from being informed about issues that truly affect their lives and poses a threat to freedom of expression. 

For more information, please see: 

AP News – 2 Journalists Killed in Haiti While Reporting on Violence – 13, Sept. 2022. 

AP News – Witnesses: Journalist Killed After Police in Haiti Open Fire – 30, Oct. 2022. 

Constitution of Haiti (1987). 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – RELE Condemns the Escalation of Violence Against Journalists in Haiti and Calls for Comprehensive Solutions with the Accompaniment of the International Community – 3, Oct. 2023. 

New York Times – Kenyan-Led Security Mission in Haiti: What to Know – 2, Oct. 2023. 

Reuters – Americas Rights Court Condemns Violence Against Haiti Journalists – 3, Oct. 2023. 

Washington Post – U.S. Embassy in Haiti Tells Americans to Leave “As Soon As Possible” – 31, Aug. 2023.  

Author: Sydney Krause