Haiti’s journalists suffer from a cruel lack of financial resources, an absence of institutional support and difficulty accessing information. For the past two years, they have also been the target of gangs, victims of kidnapping or murdered with complete impunity.
Radio is by far Haiti’s most widely followed mass medium. The country has more than 700 radio and TV stations, but only half operate legally, with a licence 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.
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but, in practice, journalists face many obstacles. Even when journalists report credible death threats to the authorities, little is ever done aside from filing a complaint, and media professionals do not benefit from any protective measures.
Haiti has been one of the poorest countries in the Americas for nearly a century. Its economy, essentially based on agriculture, is vulnerable to natural disasters. The country is also heavily dependent on international aid and remittances from its diaspora. Journalism is one of the lowest paid professions and, aside from those working for the state media and a few privately owned media, reporters 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 face intimidation and violent attacks by both the police and protesters. Increasingly vilified and vulnerable, journalists have also been targeted by gangs for the past two years: they have been kidnapped or murdered with complete impunity. In 2022 along, at least six journalists were killed in connection with their work, making Haiti one of the region’s most dangerous countries for media personnel.