Committee to Protect Journalists demand probe into brutal killing of two Haiti journalists

·4 min read

An international journalists watchdog group is condemning the brutal killing of two reporters in Haiti while they were reporting on the country’s gang problems, and is calling on Haitian authorities to conduct “a swift and thorough” investigation.

John Wesley Amady and Wilguens Louis-Saint were shot Thursday by suspected gang members and then burned to death in the gang-controlled Laboule 12 neighborhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday, citing local news reports.

A third journalist was present at the attack but escaped.

Amady was on assignment for the broadcaster Radio Écoute FM, which is based in Montreal, and Louis-Saint worked for several online outlets including Télé Patriote and Tambou Verité.

“We are shocked,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “The fact that the first killings of journalists in the Americas in 2022 occurred in Haiti, and in such horrific circumstances, highlights the deadly risks faced by reporters in the country.”

This is not the first time that CPJ has demanded an investigation into the deadly attacks against Haitian journalists. After Radio Vision 2000 journalist Diego Charles was gunned down along with human rights advocate Antoinette “Netty” Duclaire on June 29, 2021, the organization demanded a comprehensive investigation.

“As deadly attacks against Haitian journalists continue, authorities seem all too willing to sweep these incidents under the rug, blaming the killings on general gang violence or opening empty investigations with no results, fueling a cycle of violence and impunity,” Southwick said at the time.

Other journalists killed in Haiti in the past five years are Vladjimir Legagneur, Pétion Rospide and Néhémie Joseph. No one has been held accountable for the murders.

The killings come amid a deadly wave of gang violence in Haiti that has worsened since the July 7, 2021, assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Since then, Haiti has seen a significant increase in kidnappings and a nearly month-long fuel shortage caused by the actions of a powerful gang federation.

With just 10 elected leaders in the entire country of 11.5 million, gangs have increasingly been showing their power and extending their reach beyond the capital’s slums and into the more affluent areas. Laboule 12, where the journalists were killed, has for months been the site of violent gang clashes and is the only way by road to reach the southern region of the country, which has been cut off since June by gang violence at the southern entrance of Port-au-Prince.

Robest Dimanche, a spokesperson for an association of online journalists, told popular Port-au-Prince station Radio Magik 9 on Friday that the three journalists were crossing a canal separating one gang territory from another when a group of armed individuals opened fire on them from a vehicle.

He said up until Friday morning authorities had not been able to recover the corpses from the area. The bodies were finally recovered Friday afternoon by police accompanied by a justice of the peace.

Last Saturday, Haiti National Police Divisional Inspector Dan Jerry Toussaint was killed in the same area, gunned down by a gang during an anti-gang police operation in Laboule 12. Toussaint, in charge of the police sub-station of Thomassin, was shot in the head and died of his injuries.

Toussaint was a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who served two deployments in support of the global war on terrorism. He returned to Haiti, where a friend said he had hoped to help make it better. Though the son of Dany Toussaint, a former police chief and controversial senator in former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, Jerry Toussaint had stepped out of his father’s infamous shadow to train and mentor dozens of American war fighters in preparation for deployments overseas.

“He was a leader, a mentor, a friend. He was a proud United States Marine. He represented the best of us. He represented the best of America. And he wasn’t a citizen,” said Adam Miller, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “His legacy will live through many of the lives he touched. Many U.S. Marines around the country are honoring him.”