HAVANA TIMES – Haitian authorities must take decisive action to investigate a brutal attack that left two reporters dead, guarantee that the journalists’ bodies are returned to their families, and ensure the Haitian press can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Frantzsen Charles and Tayson Lartigue were shot and killed when a group of journalists was attacked while reporting on rising gang violence in the Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, at around 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 11, according to news reports and Jacques Desrosiers, secretary-general of the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), a local trade group, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. The bodies of the journalists have not been recovered, according to those reports.
Charles was a reporter for online news outlet FS News Haiti, according to an obituary the outlet published, and Lartigue was the founder of Tijén Jounalis, which covered local and breaking news on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, according to those reports and CPJ’s review of the outlet’s social media accounts.
“Frantzsen Charles and Tayson Lartigue are the latest names added to this year’s tragic tally of journalists killed while on assignment in Haiti,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “Haitian authorities cannot continue standing idly by as the country’s journalists risk — and lose — their lives to keep their fellow citizens informed. Authorities must ensure Charles and Lartigue’s bodies are returned to their loved ones and that Haitian journalists can do their jobs safely.”
Charles and Lartigue were among a group of seven journalists who went to Cité Soleil to report on ongoing gang violence in the neighborhood and interview the family of a 17-year-old resident killed the day before, according to Desrosiers and Haitian news website AyiboPost, which interviewed witnesses in Cité Soleil. The group had finished their interviews and were leaving the neighborhood, with Charles and Lartigue riding on the motorbike in the lead, when they were ambushed and shot, according to those sources.
The other five journalists were able to flee to safety, where they attempted to call Charles and Lartigue and return for them, according to news reports. One of the other journalists in the group told AyiboPost that the attackers seized Charles and Lartigue’s motorbike and reporting equipment.
Rival armed groups have been engaged in violent confrontations in Cité Soleil for several weeks, Desrosiers told CPJ.
Haitian National Police spokesperson Garry Desrosiers told Spanish news agency EFE that police were “aware that five of the journalists ‘exited with difficulty’ from the location” and that they “had information” that Charles and Lartigue had been killed. He urged journalists to “be careful” when reporting in neighborhoods like Cité Soleil.
CPJ reached out to the Haitian National Police for comment via the contact form on their website but did not immediately receive a response.
Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry posted a series of tweets about the case to his official Twitter account on Monday.
“We are deeply shocked by the news of the assassination of two young journalists: Tayson Latigue and Frantzsen Charles, yesterday Sunday, in Cité-Soleil, in the exercise of their profession. We strongly condemn this barbaric act, while sending our heartfelt thoughts to the families of the victims and their colleagues,” Henry wrote.
“Armed conflicts between rival gangs make it difficult for journalists to work in Haiti,” AJH’s Desrosiers told CPJ. “This is the second time in the year 2022 that journalists have been murdered while working in the field.”
In January, suspected gang members shot and killed two Haitian journalists, Wilguens Louis-Saint and John Wesley Amady, while they were reporting on the lack of security in a gang-disputed area in Port-au-Prince, as CPJ documented at the time.
In February, Haitian National Police officers opened fire on a protest by textile workers demanding a higher minimum wage in Port-au-Prince, killing broadcast reporter Maximilien Lazard and injuring two other journalists.
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