January 11, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Revival of journalism lags behind media reconstruction

Haiti will tomorrow mark the first anniversary of the “35 seconds” that devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas and caused some 300,000 deaths. Today reconstruction is more of a hope or a prayer than a reality, contrasting with the international community’s mobilization immediately after the earthquake and the massive NGO presence. “Goudou Goudou, reconstruction’s ignored voices,” a web-documentary by Benoît Cassegrain and Giordano Cossu of the NGO Solidar’IT, will be screened tomorrow on the Radio France Internationale website with Reporters Without Borders’ support. It shows the Haitian tragedy through the experiences of five radio journalists. “A year later, it is as if the earthquake happened yesterday,” one of them says. Watch the preview (in French)

Goudou Goudou, les voix ignorées de la reconstruction -Haiti
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Haiti’s earthquake highlighted the importance of the role the media play in a humanitarian disaster. Not only as news sources but also as vehicles for rallying and uniting the population. Examples of this were given by Signal FM, the only radio station still operational immediately after the earthquake, and Caraïbes FM, a radio station that resumed operating in the street, in close proximity to its listeners, very soon afterwards. The 17 radio stations in Petit-Goâve (a town to the west of the capital that was also badly damaged), which formed a coalition to provide special programmes about the earthquake, are another example. Media Operations Centre’s success
Reporters Without Borders decided to contribute to reconstruction by opening a Media Operations Centre for journalists who had been left without any means of working. Installed with technical help from the Canadian company Quebecor, the centre was inaugurated on 19 January 2010 by culture and communication minister Marie-Laurence Josselyn-Lassègue. It is currently being run by our correspondent in Haiti, Claude Gilles, a reporter who used to work with the daily Le Nouvelliste. Located in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Bourdon and equipped with a dozen computer workstations, WiFi and other communications equipment, the centre has been used by more than 4,500 people in the past year. Its users have included reporters, photographers, graphic designers, other media workers, trainers and representatives of humanitarian NGOs. As well as providing technical support, the centre also serves as place for meetings, debates and training. It hosted a total of 41 meetings, 19 training sessions, and eight news conferences during its first year. Canal France International, AFP’s Entreprise Foundation and Internews organised most of these workshops. In all, representatives from around 30 NGOs and international organizations – including Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC), International Media Support, Oxfam, the Red Cross, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNDP – are regularly seen at the centre. Thanks to the supports of its main donors – Fondation de France, the Roland-Berger Foundation (Germany) and the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques (Canada) – it will continue operating until the end of 2011. Rebuilding
Half of Port-au-Prince’s radio stations (25 of a total of about 50) were able to resume broadcasting within a month of the earthquake, thanks above all to help from Radio France. Virtually all of the capital’s radio and TV stations are now working again but many of them are handicapped by the same lack of resources from which they already suffered before the quake. The 2 million dollars in reconstruction assistance that the Haitian government promised for the Haitian news media has so far been disbursed to only about 30 media in the capital, which have each received sums ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 dollars. The provincial media – especially those in the four worst-hit provincial towns, Jacmel, Léogâne, Grand-Goâve et Petit-Goâve – are still waiting. The culture and communication ministry has promised to disburse their subsidies in the next five months. It was originally envisaged that the media would in return undertake to broadcast public service programmes at 50 per cent of the usually tariff for government announcements, but so far no media have been asked to sign a contract to this effect. As regards the print media, Le Nouvelliste managed to resume publishing on a daily basis in April. The capital’s other daily, Le Matin, has not had the same success. It has had to lay off half of its staff and is currently being published as a weekly, with the printing being done in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. The lack of training that many Haitian journalists suffer from and the glaring inequality in resources between the various media have a major impact on the quality and diversity of news and information available to Haitians, to which much of the population anyway has little or no access. Many of the displaced persons are in this situation and it was to address their needs that Gotson Pierre of the Médialternatif group created a mobile “Télé-Centre” equipped with an Internet café and a mobile mini-studio in June. Supported by UNESCO and Reporters Without Borders, this original “Télé-Centre” visits about a dozen of the capital’s camps for displaced persons, to which around a thousand refugees from the countryside flock every day. One of the crucial challenges this year will be to provide all those who are the victims not only of the earthquake but also of tropical storms and a cholera epidemic with the possibility of both receiving and imparting news and information. More than the media, it is journalism itself that now needs to be reinvented in post-quake Haiti, amid the mourning for the 40 journalists who died or disappeared in the rubble. Reporters Without Borders salutes their memory and the memory of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor, two radio journalists murdered in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Has the earthquake dashed any remaining hopes for the struggle against impunity? Everything will depend on the winner of the second round of the presidential election, due to be held in February. Hopefully it will not be as chaotic as the first round. Media Operations Centre
8A rue Butte, Bourdon, Port-au-Prince
+1 514 664 86 95 With the support of