Death of Francois Latour, Haitian Journalist

  • Posted on: 1 June 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
Blog Tags 2 Terms: 
latourFrancois Latour, a well-respected Haitian journalist, was kidnapped and killed on May 23rd.  Similar to Jean Dominique, he was loved by the people for speaking in Kreyol instead of French.  What set him apart from Dominique though was that Francois rarely discussed controverial political issues, whereas that was Jean's raison d'etre. 
Currently, is is thought that this was a random act of violence.  With the re-energized MINUSTAH presence in Cite Soleil, kidnappings are down dramatically.  But they are still a problem, and will be so until Haiti's institutions, and not those of the international community alone, are strengthened considerably. 

Regardless of whether this was a calculated or random act of violence, being a journalist in Haiti is one of the most dangerous of all professions.  While we were Peace Corps volunteers, several journalists were killed for speaking out against the corruption of political officials.  Sadly, Jean Dominique's case remains unsolved though it is widely suspected who ordered the assassination, if not who caried out.
Without a free press that can speak without fear of retaliation, there will be no civil society.  And all can agree that Haiti will need a strong civil society in order to address the prevalance of corruption and lack of accountability throughout the government. 
President Preval has recently declared war on corruption.  In order to do so, the most important steps he could take would be to ensure that civil servants are paid on time, every time and that the press is protected from retribution when speaking the truth.
Haiti has lost a good journalist and an ever better man.  In his memory, the Haitian governemnt must take steps to ensure that the kidnappings and targeting of journalists is eliminated.

Popular Haitian Talk Show Host Is Found Slain

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 24, 2007; Page A18
MEXICO CITY , May 23 -- A popular Haitian actor and radio talk show host was found shot to death Wednesday in Port-au-Prince , the second killing of a Haitian radio journalist in the past week. François Latour was reportedly killed after being kidnapped, making him the latest victim in a swarm of kidnappings plaguing the Western Hemisphere 's poorest country.
His death comes one week after radio host Alix Joseph was slain in the northern city of Gonaives . At least nine Haitian journalists have been killed since 2000.
Latour was beloved by poor Haitians for broadcasting in Creole rather than French, which is favored by Port-au-Prince's small but powerful elite. Known for his wit, Latour recorded hours of humorous advertisements and radio programs. He also starred in Haitian films.
"Everyone is horrified," Michele Pierre-Louis, director of the Open Society Institute in Haiti, said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince . "This was a great man. Such a witty man." Residents think Latour's killing may have been a random act, Pierre-Louis said. Unlike other journalists who have been killed in Haiti , Latour seldom touched on political themes.  Hours before Latour's body was found, his kidnappers demanded a $100,000 ransom, Gérin Alexandre, news director at Caraibes FM, told the Reuters news agency. Latour was shot in the stomach, Alexandre said
Ransoms from kidnappings are one of the main sources of revenue for gangs that terrorize Port-au-Prince's slums. Heavily armed U.N. troops have fought off-and-on street battles with gangs for months, hoping to bring order to slums where garbage piles up uncollected and canals serve as open sewers.
President René Préval, who has been in office just over a year, initially tried to negotiate with gang leaders but has lately endorsed military offensives to combat them.
The killing of a radio journalist in Haiti was the subject of a 2003 documentary by Jonathan Demme. The murder of Jean Dominique, a pioneering Port-au-Prince broadcaster who advocated for better treatment of the poor, was explored in "The Agronomist."

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