doc. 9 rev. 1
September 1988
Original: English














          1.       The right to freedom of thought and expression is protected by Article 13 of the American Convention.1   The right to freedom of association is protected by Article 16 of the American Conventiobn.2   These two rights, above all others, are the rights which have achieved a certain viability following the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier.  The realization of these rights has not been complete, and their exercise has undergone severe strain as journalists, politicians, organizers ("animateurs") and union leaders have been killed or harassed in the attempted exercise of them.


          2.       The radio stations and grassroots organizations assisted by religious workers were the engines of the massive opposition movement to Duvalier.  As the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Pierre D. Sam, stated in the Spring of 1986 at a conference in Washington, D.C.: 


                   On the eve of February 7, 1986, these strata of the population, particularly in the eight provinces, acting without apparent leadership, but moved by the same spirit which made our independence in 1804, invaded the streets and the quarters of the militia, sometimes holding the American flag as a banner and symbol of democracy, calling for the army to take power.  They rejected the government as a defunct system and not representative of the country.  The only forces which might have guided them were the religious missions united around a single motto, operating through two radio stations (Catholic Radio Soleil, Protestant Radio Lumière), "Abraham says that it is enough".  The people demanded change.  All the main roads were blocked, the public offices closed, the markets empty.  The capital was isolated from the provinces, and the government in power confined to a small area around the National Palace with the Ministers staying at home, looking at the T.V. programs or listening to the radio.3


                3.       Ambassador Sam represented the National Governing Council before the OAS in the Spring of 1986, and underscored that his government, the CNG:


  … is committed to work toward the establishment of true and functional democracy, based on absolute respect for human rights, freedom of the press, the existence of free trade unions, and the operation of well-structured political parties.4 


The rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association received priority consideration by the CNG.


          4.       Haiti, which is primarily a rural peasant society, has undergone its most dramatic evolution as regards the organization of the peasant population.  Peasants comprise approximately 80% of Haiti's 5.7 million population and peasant organizations called "groupements" have been in the process of formation during the past 15 years.  At present, the organized peasant movement in Haiti has approximately 200,000-250,000 members and in May 1987 the representatives of these peasant organizations held their First National congress in the village of Papaye in the Central Plateau.  The peasant organizations currently functioning in Haiti include the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), which is the largest and began in the Central Plateau and now has groups and organizers in the nine geographic departments of Haiti; the Tet Ansanm movement in the Northwest (against whom the peasant massacre in Jean Rabel, mentioned in Chapter III, supra, was directed); Caritas in Gros Morne; Institut Diocesan d'Education des Adultes in the North (IDEA), and ITEKA which is actively working to train peasants in technical services.5


          5.       The peasant organizations also form part of KONAKOM which is the coalition that sprang from the first National Congress of Democratic Movements, known by its acronym "KONAKOM".  This first National Congress was held in February 1987, as representatives of some 310 organizations - peasant "groupements," trade unions, women's groups, political parties, human rights groups, students groups, the Ti Legliz  (church) groups, and the like - met in Port-au-Prince to forge a united strategy to deal wit the country's problems.


          6.       At the time of the CEP/CNG June 1987 electoral crisis (discussed in Chapter II, supra), a number of these organizations merged with other organizations from the private sector in order to form the "Group of 57" a broad coalition front to present an alternative candidate to the November 1987 elections.  KONAKOM at the time of the November 1987 elections became part of the National Concerted Action Front (FNC) which presented Mr. Gérard Gourgue as its candidate for the presidency and presented candidates running for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies throughout the country.  It was the probability of an important electoral victory by the FNC in the November 1987 election which motivated the sabotage of the elections and the massacre of voters by the repressive forces (see Chapter II, supra).  To justify the sabotage of the elections the military authorities defended their actions as necessary to prevent the assumption of power of Communists.  This charge, not based in fact, is leveled against any individual or organization which presents a threat to the Government.


          7.       Political parties in Haiti continue to comment on national events but do not function as parties in light of the fact that there are no announced elections.  After the assumption of power by President Manigat some of the political leaders left the country and returned to their former activities abroad.  Since Manigat's ouster some of these figures have returned.


          8.       As regards labor unions, there are, since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier, three major labor federations in Haiti.6   These are the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers (CATH), headed by Mr. Yves Richard; the Federation of Union Workers (FOS) headed by Mr. Joseph Senat; and, the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers/Latin American Workers Central (CATH/CLAT), all of which have links to international labor federations.7   There are no reliable estimates of the size of the membership of these federations since they each claim to include thousands of unemployed workers in their ranks.






The 1987 Constitution


          9.       Article 28 of the 1987 Constitution of Haiti stipulates freedom of expression in the following terms:


                   Every Haitian has the right to express his opinion freely on any matter by any means he chooses.


          Article 28.1:


                   Journalists shall freely exercise their profession within the framework of the law, such exercise may not be subject to any authorization or censorship except in the case of war.


          Article 28.2:


                   Journalists may not be compelled to reveal their sources, however it is their duty to verify the authenticity and accuracy of information.  It is also their obligation to respect the ethics of their profession.      


          10.     The 1987 Constitution guarantees more extensively the right of expression than the 1957 Constitution.8   Article 28 of the 1987 Constitution established that journalists be free to exercise their profession without censorship.  Additionally, journalists cannot be forced to reveal their sources.


          11.     On august 31, 1986, the National Council of Government issued its Press Law,9  replacing the Press Law of 1980 which severely restricted freedom of expression.  The Press Law of 1986 regulates the activities of the media, the printed press and the publishing houses; and establishes that every Haitian is free to engage in such activities.  Meanwhile, radios and television continue to be regulated by the October 12, 1977 Decree pertaining to radio broadcasting.10 


          12.     The text of the Press Law has been the object of criticisms by the members of the Association of Haitian Journalists and by local and foreign associations.11


          13.     The 1986 Law omits the provision regarding prior censorship found in the 1980 Law, which obliged the printer to present five copies of a publication to the corresponding authorities 72 hours in advance of publication.  This measure was extremely difficult for new publications, which needed to publish immediately.12   The 1986 Law requires presenting two copies of each publication to the Ministry of Information and Coordination in Port-au-Prince, or to the regional offices of that Ministry, for the provinces, without establishing any type of prior censorship.


          14.     The 1986 Law stipulates that journalists require a license from the government in order to be able to work.  The license is valid for one year and renewable for the same period.14    This provision signified a setback in comparison with the 1980 Decree, which empowered the Association of Journalists to issue the professional identification certificates.


          15.     In response to the criticism of the journalists, the Ministry of Information and Coordination declared that "the journalist's certificate of professional identification was simply an administrative step that facilitated a journalist's access to the official sources of information".15


                16.     It should be noted that this provision of the 1986 law paved the way for censorship, since the government already was in the position to decide who could become a journalists.  Additionally, the fact that the identification card must be renewed has a chilling effect on the exercise of the freedom of expression since the card could be used to penalize free expression.


          17.     With respect to the protection of professional secrecy guaranteed by the Constitution and by the Penal Code (Article 323), the 1986 Law violates these guarantees by compelling radio and television stations to reveal their sources.  As a result, a discriminatory regime is established between the written media and the audio-visual media, when both form part of the same global network.


          18.     Concerning media crimes, the 1986 Law stipulates that freedom of expression can only be restricted during a declared state of war or during a state of emergency.  This is an advance over the provision set forth in the prior Law:  "in the case of abuse or media offense, as determined by law".


          19.     The 1986 Law does not criminalize media attacks against the Head of State or the First Lady or attacks against the "integrity of the popular culture".16   Nevertheless, this 1986 Law does prohibit publications which offend public morals.17   The vagueness of this language allows for an overly broad interpretation as to what kinds of acts may be classified as abuses.


          20.     Article 31 of the 1987 Haitian constitution sets forth the right to freedom of assembly and association in the following terms:


                   Freedom of unarmed assembly and association for political, economic, social, cultural or any other peaceful purposes is guaranteed.


          1.       Political parties and groups shall compete with each other in the exercise of suffrage.  They may be established and may carry out their activities freely.  They must respect the principles of national and democratic sovereignty.  The law determines the conditions for their recognition and operation, and the advantages and privileges reserved to them.


          2.       The police authorities must be notified in advance of assemblies outdoors in public places.


          3.       No one may be compelled to join any association of any kind.







          21.     Under President-for-Life, Jean Claude Duvalier, substantial limits were placed on the exercise of freedom of the press and speech.  All of Haiti's major newspapers were pro-Government and received substantial subsidies.  Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press were further undermined by the Anti-Communist Law of 1969 and the amended press law of 1980.  Some radio stations and newspapers attempted to test these limitations and in November 1980, a governmental crackdown crushed the emerging opposition media.  Mr. Jean Dominique's radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, the first to broadcast in Creole, the language of the masses, was closed down and its entire staff expelled.  Similarly, emerging independent trade union organizers and opposition politicians were also expelled and the brief "Haitian Spring" came to an end.


          22.     In Haiti the radios are the dominant communications media.  In a country where per capita income is US$300 per year, the lowest in the hemisphere, and illiteracy is approximately 90%, the market is small for the three daily newspapers, Le Nouvelliste, Haiti Liberée (now renamed L'Union) and Le Matin.  The newspapers are also prohibitively expensive, costing approximately US$1.00.  Since the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier, the diaspora newspapers, published in the United States, are also sold on Haitian streets, such as Haiti-Observateur, Haiti-Progrès (both published in Brooklyn, New York) and Haiti-en-Marche (published in Florida, U.S.).  The diaspora papers have much greater freedom of expression, editorial content, and financial security and are read primarily by the large Haitian exile community in the United States.  The Port-au-Prince papers, on the other hand, engage in a great deal of self-censorship and can almost be considered as vehicles for "press communiqués" issued by the Government or any person or organization who/which chooses to issue a communiqué.  There is very little opinion or editorial comment in these local papers.


          23.     The Catholic Church's radio station Radio Soleil attempted to fill the vacuum left by the expulsion of the Radio Haiti-Inter staff.  In spite of the protection afforded by the Church this station has also repeatedly been subject to attacks.  In July 1985, Radio-Soleil's director, Father Hugo Triest was expelled.  As the Commission stated in its 1984-1985 Annual Report: 


                   On July 24, 1985, three Belgian priests, Hugo Triest, Jean Hostens and Yvan Pollefeyt, were expelled from the country.  Father Hugo Triest, director of the Catholic radio station Radio Soleil, which had advised its listeners before the plebiscite (on the Presidency-for-Life) about how they should vote, was accused, along with the other two priests, of violating the country's immigration laws and had their residence permits revoked.  Father Triest was given 24 hours to leave the country and the other two, 48 hours.  The Haitian Episcopal Conference lodged a formal protest with the government on these expulsions, in a letter signed by eight bishops, accusing President Duvalier of persecuting the Church.  The bishops called for a day of fasting and prayer on August 2, 1985.18 


                Father Hugo Triest was able to return to Haiti and to resume his work with Radio Soleil, as was Mr. Jean Dominique who resumed the operations of Radio Haiti Inter, following the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier.


          24.     With the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier great expectations for an improvement in conditions were raised among the Haitian people.  As the Commission stated in its 1986-1987 Annual Report: 


                   Since the fall of the Duvalier regime on February 7, 1986, there has been made manifest a vehement desire on the part of vast sectors of the Haitian population to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, which had been denied them in the past, in particular, the right to organize, the right to run for political office and to be elected.


                   Following the ouster of the 29 year old dictatorship, the Haitian people wanted and demanded change, and improvement in their deplorable standards of living, characterized as the lowest in the hemisphere, and a participatory role in the creation of their future.19 


25.     The press, as well as the Haitian people, perceived the departure of Duvalier as the nation's Second Independence Day.  "Haiti Liberated" (Haiti Libérée) became the cry of the hour and the aspiration for the future.  It was quickly adopted as the name of one of the Port-au-Prince dailies.  In this early period following the departure of Duvalier the radio stations such as Radio Haiti-Inter and Radio Soleil functioned as quasi-human rights organizations as did the trade union federation CATH.  People went to the headquarters of these organizations in order to protest violations of their human rights. As the local human rights organizations began to be formed, the radios and the unions ceased to be the only centers concerned with human rights.


          26.     During the Commission's January 1987 on-site observation in Haiti, a journalist (who given the recent wave of repression will remain unidentified) testified before the Commission that freedom of speech had not yet been fully achieved in Haiti.  He cited, for example, the expulsion of Mr. Nicolas Estiverne, who was expelled for the declarations that he had made on television. Subsequently, there were also other attacks on journalists and unions by members of the ancien regime who did not want public denunciations made against them.  He cited as an example, that journalists from his radio station were frequently called in by the authorities who expressed to them their unhappiness with the radio station's public denunciation of complaints they had received against the military commanders.


          27.     One specific case involved the journalist Mr. Jacques Jean-Baptiste who worked for Radio Métropole.  This journalist was beaten by the military because he had given a direct broadcast from a portable transmitter which impeded the departure of an important figure of the Duvalier regime.  On February 25, 1986, Mr. Jean Baptiste was at the airport and alerted the public that Mr. Luc Desyr, a former Duvalierist chief of the secret police, was about to depart from Haiti.  The news was immediately broadcast on the air.  The military did not hesitate to put pressure on the radio station in order to prevent it from disseminating the news because it feared that a crowd would come to the airport to physically prevent the departure of Mr. Desyr, which is what, n fact, happened.  Consequently, in the opinion of this journalist, certain progress had been made as regards freedom of expression in Haiti but one cannot speak of the full exercise of this right in Haiti.


          28.     In light of the constant possibility of reprisals for what one broadcasts or prints the press adopted a form of self-censorship, said this witness.  For example, an audio cassette was sent to the radio in 1986 by a lieutenant who went into hiding after having been transferred from Port-au-Prince to a remote provincial post.  In his statement on the cassette, he personally attacked Col. Jean-Claude Paul, the Commander of Casernes Dessalines.  This cassette had been copied and distributed to all the organs of the press and to all the radio stations.  "We did a professional job," he said, "we contacted Col. Paul in order to get his reaction to the declarations of the lieutenant.  He refused to respond.  At our radio station we did not mention the name of the person in question, but rather the name of the job he holds, in order to prevent personal conflicts.  Self-censorship depends on the philosophy and tendency of the radio station".


          29.     The media played a very important role during the electoral period.  It served as a conduit for civic and educational campaigns and informed its listeners on the mechanics of how to vote.  In addition, the radio stations broadcast interviews with the diverse candidates and listeners were able to phone in and ask them questions.  This freedom was severely curtailed at the time of the elections.


          30.     During its august 1988 visit to Haiti the Commission met with many representatives of the media.  The representatives of the radio stations described how they had been under attack during the electoral period.  All the independent radio stations had been attacked with rockets and grenades and had to be closed down.  These stations did not change their programs, however, when they resumed broadcasting.  In the opinion of one witness the events of November 29, 1987 represented "the return to power of the Macoutes".  Father Hugo Triest, director of Radio Soleil denied that his station engaged in any self-censorship.  "We were the first to report the killings at Labadie" he stated.


          31.     Representatives of other stations acknowledged that they do engage in self-censorship.  Mr. Richard Widmaier of Radio Metropole stated that "we are self-censoring, we have to be, we've learned about the violence of the CNG during its two years in power".  Mr. Widmaier described the subtle pressures on the press.  He had been arrested three weeks earlier on the street in front of a restaurant.  He stated that he would not go without first seeing a warrant.  One of the two men (dressed in T-shirts) pulled out a gun.  He still refused to go and went to a phone and called his wife and told her to put out the word.  He was taken to the Casernes in Petionville and held for 12 hours.  He then received an apology for the arrest.  They said it was a mistake and he was released.


          32.     Journalists from the print media complained of the harassment of journalists by the Army and indicated that the situation had worsened since the coup.  Two editions of newspapers published in the United States by Haitian exiles Haiti Progres and Haiti-en-March of May and June 1988were seized at the Port-au-Prince airport, both had articles on government involvement in drug trafficking.  The journalists complained that the U.S. Government did not protest the seizure.




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          1.       Article 13 of the American Convention provides:  1.  Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression.  This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and disseminate information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art. Or through any other medium of one's choice.  2.  The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure:  a.  respect for the rights or reputation of others; or  b.  the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.  3.  The right or expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemination of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions.  4.  Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 above, public entertainment may be subject by law to prior censorship for the sole purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood and adolescence.  5.  Any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes an incitement to lawless violence or to any other similar illegal action against any person or group of persons, on any grounds, including those of race, color, religion, language, or national origin shall be considered as an offense punishable by law.

          2.       Article 16 of the American Convention provides:  1.  Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes.  2.  The exercise of this right shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.  3.  The provisions of this article do not bar the imposition of legal restrictions, including even deprivation of the exercise of the right of association, on members of the armed forces and the police.

          3.       See, "The U.S. Role in Haiti's 'Second Independence'" speech by Ambassador Pierre D. Sam, reprinted in Department of State, Foreign Service Institute Authoritarian Regimes in Transition, Ed. Hans Binnedijk (1987).

          4.       Id.

          5.       See "A Force for Change:  Haiti's Peasant Movement" in the Haiti Beat, a publication of the Washington Office on Haiti, January 1988.

          6.       Prior to February 7, 1986, free trade unions could not be organized in Haiti.

          7.       FOS with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; CATH/CLAT with the Christian Democratic World Confederation of Labor; and CATH with Canadian unions.

8.       Article 26 of the 1957 Constitution stipulates the freedom of expression in the following terms:  "Every person has the right to express his opinions about whatever subject and through all the media that one has at one's disposition.  The expression of one's thought, whatever way it is affected, will not be submitted to prior censorship, except in the case of a declared State of War."  The abuses of the right of expression will be defined and controlled by the law, without being able to affect the freedom of expression."  The underlined phrase was omitted from the 1964/1971 text.

          9.       Cf. Le Nouvelliste, No. 32791, pp. 4-21.

          10.     Cf. Le Moniteur, November 21, 1977.

          11.     The Association of Haitian Journalists declared the following in a letter addressed to General Henri Namphy, President of the National Government Council:  "Within the mark of our profession, the July 31, 1986 Press Decree imposes an obstacle to the freedom of expression and constitutes one of the most reactionary legislations since the colonial period until the present time."  Cf. Le Nouvelliste, October 8, 1986.

          12.     Cf. Article 5, regarding the Press Decree of 1980.

          13.     Cf. Article 6, about the Press Decree of 1986.

          14.     Cf. Article 8 of the 1986 Decree.

          15.     Cf. Haiti Observateur, August 29-September 5, 1986.

          16.     Article 28 of the 1980 Decree set forth prison terms from 1 to 3 years for offenses against the Head of State, unless the accused was entitled to provisional liberty while the case was in process (Article 38), which could take years.

          17.     Cf. Article 17 of the 1980 Press Decree.

          18.     OAS, IACHR 1984-1985 Annual Report (October 1, 1985) at p. 160.

          19.     OAS, IACHR, 1986-1987 Annual Report, (September 22, 1987) at p. 234.  Also, see, for example, the comments of Mr. Bernard Diederich, a well known journalist and observer of the Haitian scene:  "Perhaps the most dramatic shift in Haitian society since the ouster of Jean-Claude Duvalier has been the freeing up of the press.  Radio stations and publications have proliferated and are disseminating news reports and commentary of nearly every tendency.", in B. Diederich, "Haiti's 'Free' Press Dodges Army Bullets" in CPJ Update, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, July/August 1987.