Two Years Since the Murder of Abdias Jean

He was murdered on January 14, 2005 shortly after finishing his lunch  near his home in the Village de Dieu slum.

The killing of Abdias Jean, a young Haitian journalist who reported  from Haiti for WKAT radio in Florida, was quickly condemned by  Amnesty International, the Director General of UNESCO and the Inter  American Press Association. It was reported by Reuters and Associated  press wire services. The Secretary General of the Association of  Haitian Journalists (AHJ), Guyler Delva, also condemned the murder  and expressed dismay at the indifference of the Haitian commercial  media to the death of a journalist.

Delva did not share Jeans’ political views but the brazen nature of  the crime against a fellow journalist impacted him. Delva was part of  the opposition that helped to overthrow Haiti’s democratically  elected government on February 29, 2004 and bring to power de-facto  Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, but Delva’s protests provoked  Latortue’s displeasure. According to US based researcher Tom Reeves,  who spoke with Reuters employees, Latortue complained to Reuters  about an article Delva had written about the murder.

Delva was also a close associate of Reporters San Frontiers’ (RSF)  Secretary General Robert Menard whose organization failed to mention  the killing of Jean and many other assaults on grassroots journalists  during the interim period. In August of 2006 the Paris based group  RSF was questioned on its failure to report on the murder of Abdias  Jean.

RSF’s Haiti expert responded “We asked the police about the killings  of Abdias Jean and we were told by the police that it was an attack  made by the police but that they didn’t know he was a journalist. He  was taking pictures.” The RSF representative admitted that it had not  met with a single witness to the murder but that all the information  they had on the case was based on the testimony of the police, known  for their widespread killings and abuses. The damming police  testimony was never published. In a response, Jean-François Julliard,  RSF’s News Editor, again failed to mention the murder of Jean.

Haitian police spokeswoman Gessy Coicou, speaking for the RCMP  trained perpetrators said of Abdias Jean: “I haven’t heard of him and  I haven’t seen his name in any of the files I have. Many journalists  have reported that there are many witnesses. I would advise them to  file a complaint.” The victim’s mother filed numerous complaints but  nothing has come of them.

In the moments prior to his death, Abdias Jean was investigating  murders carried out by the Haitian police, specifically the killing  of two young boys. After taking photos of the victims, he hid in a  friend’s house when he saw police approaching. But the police spotted  him; ordered him out of the house, and shot him in front of several  witnesses. Reed Lindsay, a US journalist based in Haiti, reported:  “They tied his wrists with his own belt, dragged him a block away and  put a bullet through his head” Yet the police claim not to have heard  of him. Perhaps they didn’t. The police and other armed groups that  backed Latortue’s de facto government were responsible for 4000  political killings in the greater Port-au-Prince area, according to a  scientific study published in the Lancet Medial Journal in August  2006. However, Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and  Democracy in Haiti asserts “The police know very well who Abdias Jean  was. His family filed complaints with the police, the Haitian justice  system and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”

Violence against poor journalists, often those with cameras continued  on during the interim period. A young Haitian photojournalist, Jean  Ristil, who had photographed MINUSTAH and Haitian police violence in  Cite Soleil, said that in November of 2005 he was arrested for the  second time. He has been interrogated, tortured and had much of his  equipment destroyed by police. On April 7 2005 journalist Robenson  Laraque died from injuries suffered while observing a clash between  UN troops and members of the disbanded Haitian military in the city  of Petit-Goâve. Later that year unknown assailants murdered another  Haitian journalist, Jacques Roche. His killing was exploited by the  interim government to justify the vilification and imprisonment of a  prominent liberation theologian and critic.

The failure to achieve justice for the victims of violence by the  interim government’s forces and their armed supporters has been  widely ignored by the corporate press, many academics and some press  freedom groups like RSF which claim impartiality. The killers of  Abdias Jean, much like the killers of thousands of Haitians after the  coup of February 2004 remain at large. Concannon, a lead lawyer on  the historic Raboteau massacre trial, observes, “Abdias Jean’s  killing is yet one more example of the double standard, where the  lives of poor black men in Haiti matter least. Had he been a  journalist with a prominent Haitian or foreign outlet visiting Cite  de Dieu, he would have been eulogized for his courage in going into  that neighborhood. But he was a poor journalist covering his  neighbors, so he has been forgotten.”

Mario Andersol, chief of the Haitian national police, was unavailable  for comment.

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