By Jean Roland Chery/CPJ Haiti consultant
Thousands of Haitians, including many journalists, have fled the country since the January 12 earthquake. Ronald Leon, a veteran journalist who worked with Haiti’s National Television station, Radio Caraibes and Tropic FM, has now settled in Florida, leaving behind his family and his journalism training school, Ameritech, which was destroyed in the earthquake. Its last class had 15 students.
Leon told CPJ that his school, in the north of Port-au-Prince, had been devastated and looted. The computers that were not damaged in the natural disaster were stolen by gangs of looters, he said. From his new home in the United States, Leon said he intends to continue his work as a journalist, informing the Haitian community in Florida. Leon’s home in Port-au-Prince was completely destroyed.
Linda Jean Gilles, a presenter and reporter with Radio Lumière, also decided to leave Haiti. Traumatized by the earthquake and the loss of three of her colleagues at Radio Lumière, she has now settled in Boston. Gesnel Toussaint, the news director for Radio Lumière, told CPJ that he understands why journalists have decided to leave the country. Everything has to be begun again from scratch, he said, adding that the working conditions of journalists are so bad that those who continue to practice are “real fighters.” Toussaint, who has just returned to Haiti after spending two weeks in New York, said that he may also emigrate in the near future.
Some journalists who were seriously injured left Haiti in search of medical care abroad. In addition to Yves Adler, a journalist for Amicale FM and National Radio of Haiti, who received assistance from CPJ and is now in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, journalist Sony Destine of Radio Echo 2000 has also moved to the Dominican Republic.
Guyler Delva, secretary general of the Haitian press group SOS Journalistes, said that more journalists will leave Haiti in the days to come. In many cases, media outlets cannot afford to pay their staffs and the country’s overall economic situation is catastrophic, he said. An exodus of Haitian journalists would be a bad blow to Haiti, Delva said.
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