We have this late-breaking news. Two gunmen shot and killed Haiti’s most prominent radio journalist as he pulled into the courtyard of his radio station for a Monday morning newscast. Jean Dominique, who was in his sixties, died at the Haitian Community Hospital in suburban Petionville, where Radio Haiti Inter is located. A station worker also was killed in the attack. There were no immediate arrests. [includes rush transcript]
The attack came amid a wave of insecurity and scattered violence last week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, as Haitian officials try to organize elections to install a new parliament. No date has been set.
In the 1970s, Dominique spearheaded a free-speech movement against the dictatorial regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Duvalier shut his station down in 1980, and Dominique fled into exile. He returned after a popular uprising toppled Duvalier in 1986.
Dominique’s station was closed down again in 1991 when the army ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom Dominique followed into exile in the United States. A U.S.-led intervention restored democracy and Aristide to power in 1994. Dominique was a close ally of Aristide and his successor, President Rene Preval.
- Kim Ives, with the weekly newspaper Haiti Progres. From Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: And we have this late-breaking news from Haiti, just got a call from someone in Port-au-Prince who said that Jean Dominique, who is the owner of Radio Haiti, has been shot and killed. We’re joined on the phone right now by Kim Ives, who is editor of Haiti Progrès in Brooklyn, New York. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Kim.
KIM IVES: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us the latest news on Jean Dominique and who he is?
KIM IVES: Yeah. Jean Dominique was the Director of Radio Haiti. He was a pioneering journalist in Haiti under the Duvaliers and in the subsequent post-Duvalier period. We learned that he did die just recently. He was gravely wounded, earlier reports said. But Radio Tropic just announced that he, in fact, did die at the hospital. It seems he was ambushed in the courtyard of the radio when he went there this morning.
And it’s a real blow to the press and seems to be part of the campaign which may be orchestrated by the forces of what was Duvalierism and what has recently become the coup quarter. And there has been a lot of motion and press of late, which has been suggesting that the US, in fact, is very unhappy with the current government’s stance on elections. And the attack against Jean Dominique fits well within this kind of campaign.
It looks like his death is a signal, really, to all the democracy-minded forces in Haiti, that they had better be on the lookout. And indeed there’s been a lot of rumors that a coup could be taking place shortly. So we’re waiting to see if this is the beginning of a weeklong campaign or possibly even more.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Kim Ives of Haiti Progrès, a Haitian newspaper that is published in the United States, as well as Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: And we have this late-breaking story. As we said at the beginning of the program, the owner of a Haitian radio station, Special Advisor to Haitian President René Préval, was shot and killed on his way to work early today, Jean Dominique is director and owner of Radio Haiti Inter. He was fired on as he arrived at work at Delmas Street, one of the main thoroughfares in the capital of Port-au-Prince. We go down to Port-au-Prince right now, where Lori Richardson, who is a freelance writer, is standing by. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Lori.
LORI RICHARDSON: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve just been to the hospital where Jean Dominique was taken. Can you tell us the situation right now?
LORI RICHARDSON: A very intense atmosphere, where the members of the family are trying to deal with the grief that they’re feeling. Jean Dominique’s wife — there are also members of the station there, obviously, and police coming in and out, reporters arriving. Jean Dominique’s wife, in a very emotional statement, said to the rest of the members of the team, she said, "We’re going to continue to do our job. We’re going to continue with the station in the way that we conceived of it. We must all promise that this radio won’t fall. We will continue as we were. Promise me this." It was very emotional.
AMY GOODMAN: Jean Dominique is a longtime political activist. Give us a little background on him?
LORI RICHARDSON: Yes. He purchased the station in 1968 under the Duvalier dictatorship, and his main contribution, an incredible revolutionary contribution here in Haiti, was to introduce Creole, the Haitian Creole, over the news broadcast — normally it was French, which most people in Haiti do not speak — and also to introduce actual news, bit by bit, on the station. It was very important during the ’70s, and it was very — it contributed heavily to the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship.
And since then he’s — the station has been attacked on a number of occasions. He was forced into exile in 1980 for five years — he spent a good part of that in New York — was also forced into exile during the 1991 coup. But the station is a very — it’s a frontline station down here, very important in the democratic movement, which has strived to give the microphone — to give the voice to the voiceless, to use a cliche, but really to bring in people from outside of Port-au-Prince, poor people, peasants, workers, and to let them be heard.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Lori Richardson, I want to thank you for being with us from Port-au-Prince, freelance writer, just came back from the hospital where Jean Dominique was brought after he was shot this morning. Jean Dominique, well-known Haitian activist, advisor to the President René Préval, shot dead earlier this morning. Not clear who did it and what was the motive.