RSF urges Haitian authorities to do more to locate missing TV channel owner
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Haitian authorities to step up efforts to find an independent TV channel owner who disappeared in a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince, on 20 June, a week after his wife, also a journalist, was briefly kidnapped by one of the capital’s powerful armed gangs. The authorities must do more to protect media personnel against the gangs, RSF says.
Updated on August 29, 2023: On August 25, after the payment of a ransom by his family, journalist Pierre-Louis Opont was released. RSF stresses the importance for the Haitian authorities to intensify their efforts to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.
Pierre-Louis Opont, former President of the Provisional Electoral Council and who jointly owns Télé Pluriel with his wife, Marie-Lucie Bonhomme, disappeared after telephoning Bonhomme on 20 June to say he expected to arrive at their home in the eastern suburb of Tabarre within a few minutes. She has had no news of him since then.
A well-known presenter on radio Vision 2000 as well as Télé Pluriel co-owner, Bonhomme was abducted from her home on the night of 13 June by about 30 armed members of a gang called Kraze Baryè, who ransacked her home and then took her to have a brief conversation with the gang's leader before returning her to her home at around 8 a.m.
“I think I was deliberately targeted,” she told the media afterwards. “It was clear they knew who I was.” Bonhomme thinks her husband is being held by one of the capital’s gangs, who usually kidnap for ransom.
“Haitian journalists were already risking their lives whenever they went into the field but now they are in danger even when at home. Journalist Marie-Lucie Bonhomme’s abduction and the disappearance of her husband, the owner of TV Pluriel, show that journalists are no longer safe anywhere. We call on the Haitian government to redouble its efforts to obtain Pierre-Louis Opont’s swift release and to take urgent measures to protect Haitian journalists from gang violence, in order to end the climate of terror in which they are currently immersed and to create the security conditions needed to practice journalism in Haiti.”
Bonhomme, who anchors a segment of Vision 2000’s morning news programme every day and has been a journalist for 35 years, had already received threats from Haiti’s gangs. After her abduction and her husband’s disappearance, she is no longer able to work normally and many other journalists fear suffering the same fate. It has had a chilling effect on the media and has encouraged self-censorship on anything to do with the gangs, of whom they have become a frequent target in the past two years.
Six journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2022. Another Vision 2000 journalist, Jean Tony Lorthé, was kidnapped last February, and was released two weeks later on payment of a ransom. Robert Denis, the director-general of the Canal Bleu TV channel and vice-president of the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH), was kidnapped in April.