PEN International and PEN Haiti are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in cities such as Port-au-Prince. The killing of more than 15 people, including a journalist and an activist, demonstrates the deterioration of freedom of expression, as well as the rights of assembly and protest.
"The deterioration of freedom of expression is a consequence of a country in democratic decline. Haitians have shown courage and bravery in their struggle to uphold basic human rights. Today we condemn and mourn the assassination of the journalist Diego Charles and Marie Antoinette Duclair as well as the other Haitians who were brutally killed on June 29th," said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
On Tuesday 29 June 2021, unidentified individuals murdered more than 15 people, including Diego Charles, a journalist of Gazette-Haïtiy and Radio Vision 2000, and political activist, feminist and radio broadcaster Marie Antoinette Duclair. The murder of Diego Charles adds to the list of journalists murdered since 2018 and for whom no investigation has been completed. Others include Vladjimir Legagneur, Rospide Pétion, and Nehemiah Joseph. Many journalists are forced to flee the country or their homes to escape attacks and death threats.
“Assassins spill the people’s blood with impunity, taking us back to the darkest times of our history. It is time to stop the madness and tell ourselves that we cannot go any further in barbarism. It's time to give life back the respect it deserves. Every woman and man here must raise their voice to protest against this wave of crimes that is befalling us, to demand justice, to demand a truce from spilling the blood of the people, "commented Kettly Mars, President of the PEN Haiti Center.
According to public reports and analysis written by Haiti PEN Centre, since 2018, the country has experienced a long crisis of political instability. In February 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and IACHR's Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression commented on Haiti and the political crisis and reminded that freedom of expression protects the right to record and disseminate any incident. Journalists covering protests play an essential role in gathering and disseminating information about what happens at demonstrations, including the actions of security forces.
In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Haiti ranks 87th out of 180, according to Reporters Without Borders. Haitian journalists work in precarious conditions and have limited access to public information. In recent years, there has been an increase in intimidation and violent attacks on journalists by police forces, making the profession increasingly vulnerable and stigmatized.
PEN International calls on the Haitian government to investigate the crimes of Diego Charles and Marie Antoinette Duclair, and to provide journalists with the highest level of protection so that they can carry out their work freely, and to respect its international obligation to defend fundamental human rights, as a signatory State to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.