Haitian journalist, activist killed in Port-au-Prince shootings

Killings come amid a surge in gang violence in the Haitian capital that has displaced thousands in recent weeks.

Haitians protest against gang violence in Port-au-Prince in 2020
Haitians demonstrate on December 10, 2020, in Port-au-Prince on the occasion of International Human Rights Day in the face of an surge in kidnappings perpetrated by gangs [File: Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP]

A journalist and a political activist are among at least five people killed in a spate of overnight shootings in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, the government said on Wednesday, as a press freedom group urged authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

Images showing reporter Diego Charles lying dead on the ground and activist Antoinette Duclair in her car circulated on Haitian social media. Duclair was dropping Charles off at his home when they were shot.

At least three other people were shot dead in the same neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, angering locals who protested by burning tyres in the road.

“We are investigating and call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation,” the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Americas programme said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Translation: #HAITI: CPJ received information that journalist Diego Charles was fatally shot last night alongside activist Antoinette Duclair. We are investigating and call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

The killings come amid a surge in gang violence in the Haitian capital that has displaced thousands of families over the past month.

“Since the beginning of this year, insecurity has been escalating. But the capital city is now facing an urban guerrilla, with thousands of children and women caught in the crossfire,” Bruno Maes, UNICEF’s Haiti representative, said in mid-June.

The uptick in violence is linked to changing gang alliances and territorial disputes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said.

The country has also experienced months of political instability after President Jovenel Moise insisted that his term ends in February 2022 – despite opposition groups, civil society leaders and legal experts agreeing it expired this year.

A protester holds a sign demanding an end to supporting gangs, during a protest in Port-au-Prince [File: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP Photo]

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Claude Joseph’s office released a statement expressing his condolences over the recent killings. His office ordered Haitian government ministries and the national police director to find the perpetrators and prosecute them.

“These heinous crimes and reprehensible acts can in no case go unpunished in a democratic society,” the statement read.

But Jacques Desrosiers, head of the Haitian Journalists Association, said he did not expect investigations to amount to much. “We are dismayed by this murder, which lengthens the list of journalists killed in the past three years,” Desrosiers said.

“As they always do, judicial authorities will announce investigations that lead nowhere,” he added. “We are used to that.”

In 2000, Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, was murdered in a case that remains unsolved.

More recently, photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur went to the now gang-plagued Martissant neighbourhood of the capital on a reporting assignment in 2018 and was never heard from again. Investigations into the killing of two journalists in 2019 also have not yielded any results.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera