Haiti’s journalists suffer from a cruel lack of financial resources, an absence of institutional support and difficulty accessing information.
Radio is by far Haiti’s most widely followed mass medium. The country has more than 400 radio and TV stations, but only half operate legally, with a license from Conatel, the agency that regulates communications. The privately-owned media, which are heavily influenced by the interests of their owners, tend to censor themselves. Haiti’s national radio and TV broadcaster RTNH is the primary state media outlet.
Haiti has been embroiled in a profound political and social crisis for decades, one that took a dramatic new turn when Jovenel Moïse, a president who had been becoming increasingly authoritarian in response to opposition from many quarters, was assassinated in July 2021, opening the way to an era of even greater lawlessness and uncertainty.
A proposed defamation law approved by the senate in 2017, exposing journalists to heavy penalties, would pose a serious threat to the freedom to inform. Even when journalists report credible death threats to the authorities, little is ever done aside from registering the complaint, and they are not given police protection.
Occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola, with an economy based above all on agriculture and vulnerable to natural disasters, Haiti has been one of the poorest countries in the Americas for nearly a century, and is heavily dependent on international aid and remittances by its diaspora. Journalism is one of the lowest paid professions and, aside from those working for the state media, journalists struggle to meet their basic food needs.
Haiti is culturally rich, especially in art, music, dance and theatre. These resources constitute a development potential capable of projecting a different image of the country and attracting tourists, were it not for its reputation for political instability and violence, and the succession of natural disasters that have repeatedly damaged its infrastructure.
Since 2018, Haiti has seen frequent and often violent street protests in which reporters are liable to intimidation and violence by both police and protesters, rendering them even more vulnerable and stigmatised. Reporters are also exposed to violence by the armed gangs that now control many parts of the capital. At least five journalists have been killed in Haiti since 2018.