COHA Commentary: Who's Afraid of the Haitian Media

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Council On Hemispheric Affairs

           Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

COHA Commentary 05.13

Word Count: 750


Who's Afraid of the Haitian Media?

 Analysis prepared by Kathryn Tarker, COHA Research Associate
Wednesday, 27 July 2005

One long day in Pointe Noire, on my vacation from volunteer work in the forest, the Congolese painter Trigo Piula and I sat arguing in his jumbled studio about whether there is a spiritual element to canvasses. There was little common ground to be found between us, and after debating at length he gave up on me. He declared that I simply must not be “tuned in,” and to prove his point about “active invisible forces,” he switched on a smooth Congolese radio station before conjuring up yet another image.

If only “tuning in” were always so benign. In 1994, the low droning rant from Hutu extremists on Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines provoked mass slaughter in Rwanda with its lethal mixture of target locations and accompanying calls to arms. “Exterminate the cockroaches,” said the voice, and a people shaped by a colonial culture of submission dutifully hacked their friends and neighbors to pieces. Now, and in our own hemisphere, Haitian print and electronic media have done comparable diabolic work as they relentlessly polarize their country and help to draw a new roadmap for political persecution. The most recent example is the July 21st mobbing and arrest of Father Gérard Jean-Juste, one of the country’s true heroes, for the still unsolved murder of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche, while he was presiding over the latter’s funeral.


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