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Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 16:13:59 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: News media in Haiti
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9901271657.A8189-0100000@netcom16>

News media in Haiti

From Media Studies Center,
27 January 1999

NEW YORK — In a country where military coups, government corruption and political division are the norm, the media in and about Haiti are no less fragmented.

"The biggest problem I have with the news (about Haiti) is that I have to read both (major New York Haitian) newspapers to get the story, and after that, I am still not sure what happened. The lines between editorial and reporting are not only blurred, but nonexistent," said Garry Pierre-Pierre, a reporter for The New York Times, Jan. 25 in a discussion of media coverage of Haiti at home and abroad.

In the first of a series of programs on ethnic media in New York, The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center panel on "Haiti's Media: Covering News at Home and Abroad," explored media issues related to Haiti. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of 7 million. An additional 1 million Haitians reportedly live in the U.S., about half of them in the New York area.

The panel of New York-based media outlets focused on the coverage of Haiti in the United States and in Haiti itself. Four editors with distinct views on how the issues in Haiti should be covered disagreed on content, fairness and other issues.

In Haiti, according to Kim Ives of Haiti Progres, "there is no such thing as neutral, fair journalism. Balanced journalism is impossible." He contended that even mainstream media such as the Associated Press and The New York Times have their points of view. "I think it is better to put it on your sleeve," he added. Haiti Progres is a weekly newspaper published in New York and also distributed in Haiti.

Leara Rhodes of the University of Georgia, a former Fulbright scholar in Haiti, said media in Haiti, although reporting heavily on politics, neglect coverage of such important issues as ecology, justice, crime and drugs.

Raymond Joseph, publisher and co-editor of Haiti Observateur, which began publishing in New York in 1971 as the first Haitian weekly "born in exile," defended his newspaper by claiming that "Haiti Observateur gives writers the ability to write. If you think we are not presenting the news, the paper is open to you." He described his newspaper as "a supermarket of ideas."

"We do not have the means to do in-depth coverage. How often are you going to see ecology given the attention is deserves? Everyone in Haiti is a politician. Everything boils down to politics," said Ricot Dupuy of Radio Soleil. He agreed with Rhodes that although some aspects of daily life in Haiti are covered, the media could do more with nonpolitical issues.

Radio Soleil, which was started in 1991, broadcasts from Brooklyn as a subcarrier radio station, claiming more than 100,000 subscribers. It boasts a listening audience of "more than 600,000 Haitians spread across the tri-state area," Dupuy said. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in three languages.

Mary Charles of Haitian-Americans United for Progress leveled criticism at both newspapers on the panel, declaring that "the Haitian papers that are out there currently tend to lose me completely; (they are) so political, there is not enough focus on what is happening in our community." She asked if there were plans to cover more of what is happening in the Haitian community in the United States and offer more insight into what is happening in Haiti.

Pierre-Pierre, who covers the Haitian community for the Times, said, "We need journalists who can cut through all the legalese ... and tell you in a very simple but yet straightforward manner (what is happening in Haiti) ... that is what is lacking" in the Haitian press in New York.

Haiti Observateur always has and will continue to serve the Haitian-American community in the U.S., according to Joseph, the publisher. "From day one we began with an English section," he said. "More and more we are introducing English columns and we are asking young people to write more for the paper."

Haiti Progres and Haiti Observateur, both with reporters in Haiti, played a role in opposing former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier. Currently they are published in Creole and English and circulated in Haiti and the New York area. Neither representative would cite circulation figures.

Future programs on ethnic media will discuss Jewish, Russian, Asian and Spanish-language media.