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Haiti and the Globe

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Issue: 25 Section: Media Analysis Haiti Topics: Globe and Mail, media

February 4, 2005

Haiti and the Globe

Facts, research missing in action

by Yves Engler

Demonstrators in Cap Haitien demanding the return of Aristide. The banner reads: "Operation Baghdad is a plot by Group 184 to put an end to Lavalas. They will Fail!" Engler says that Canadian reporters have uncritically reported that "Operation Baghdad"--the alleged name given to the beheading three police officers--was a committed by Aristide supporters. Photo: HaitiAction.net
The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, finally decided to report on Canadian operations in Haiti. In Saturday's paper Marina Jimenez wrote about Canada's ongoing role in the hemisphere's poorest nation.

But did Jimenez look into the veracity of Paul Martin's claim that there are no political prisoners in Haiti? Did she discuss why Canada has released aid--and demanded other governments do likewise--to a regime with absolutely no democratic legitimacy? (This only two years after refusing aid to Haiti's democratic government based on claims of electoral irregularities in seven of 7000 elected positions.)

Did Jimenez focus on Canada's connection, as head of the United Nations police force, to the increasingly murderous Haitian police, who target poor youth and even journalists who witness their misdeeds?

Surely a responsible journalist owes it to her readers to check out "facts" before citing them or at least to report conflicting versions of what is going on.
No. While Jimenez at least quoted a Haitian saying "you, the Canadians, the French and the Americans... sent Mr. Aristide into exile" the article mostly focused on the tough job facing a brave Quebec City police officer who volunteered to help out. (This is one of the few times I have seen the mainstream media report that Haitians believe Canada helped overthrow their elected government, even though on a recent trip there every Haitian I interviewed said as much.)

Surely a responsible journalist owes it to her readers to check out "facts" before citing them or at least to report conflicting versions of what is going on. Instead Jimenez writes that Aristide "from his South Africa exile" is "funding" and "directing" a "war." She reports about an "Operation Baghdad" (also used in the front-page teaser) that is supposedly a pro-Aristide campaign to murder police officers, but makes no mention that independent observers say this is an invention of the interim government. Or that on December 16 in Cap Haitien more than ten thousand pro-constitution demonstrators marched behind a banner claiming "Operation Baghdad" was a plot created by the pro--coup forces to demonize Lavalas supporters.

Nowhere in the 2500-word article is it mentioned that the Caribbean community recently reaffirmed its rejection of Haiti's current government until elections are held. Nor did Jimenez, or the rest of Canada's mainstream media, report on the recent murder of Haitian journalist Abdias Jean. According to Reuters and the Associated Press--news services that Canadian media use regularly--Haitian National Police killed Jean after he witnessed the police execute three people in the slum of Village de Dieu.

These killings come on the heels of an exhaustive human rights report by the University of Miami School of Law Center for the Study of Human Rights confirming the brutality of the installed Gérard Latortue regime.

Don't reporters at the Globe and Mail do at least some minimal background research before they go off on a foreign assignment? If Jimenez had read the University of Miami report she would have known about the growing role of former military thugs within Haitian police ranks. The report includes an interview with Andy Apaid, an American sweatshop owner and head of Group 184, a Canadian and U.S. funded organization that was instrumental in overthrowing the elected government. Apaid discusses his patronage of a gang that terrorizes Lavalas supporters in Cite Soleil. The report, which focuses on U.S. involvement in Haiti, also documents Canada's role in undermining Haiti's elected government through strategic funding of a "human rights" organization. It also reveals that the second highest official in the current "justice" ministry is currently on the payroll of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and has been for more than four years. This is the ministry that is ultimately responsible for over 700 political prisoners and an unknown number of random killings by the Haitian National Police.

The mainstream media seems almost totally unwilling to highlight Canada's connection to the coup and aftermath of violent political repression. After my return from Haiti I sent an opinion to most of the major papers in the country. Even though the article was politically tame, well edited and of proper length no paper was interested. The foreign affairs editor at the Toronto Star wavered on a news piece I submitted a couple of weeks ago and then told me the paper already has a free-lance journalist, Reed Lindsay, there. I like Lindsay's work but his reporting barely touches on Canada's involvement in Haiti (he is from the U.S.). When I sent the same news article to Paul Knox, the foreign editor at the Globe and Mail, he told me he couldn't use it "as it has a lot of commentary and opinion woven through it."

I find this ironic after reading Jimenez' article. Is there no "commentary" in a story that focuses on a brave Canadian police officer who only wants to help Haitians? When an American reporter goes to Iraq and writes a laudatory profile about a brave Marine doing his job we see the "point" of the article as justifying an illegal U.S. invasion. But, of course in our case, it is "commentary" only when a story challenges the dominant assumption of Canada as a force for good in the world.

Canada's role in Haiti needs to be exposed to a wide audience. Haitians need the left voices already within Canada's dominant media – Naomi Klein, Linda McQuaig and Rick Salutin come to mind – to use their precious space to expose the Liberal government's criminal actions in Haiti. The media's culpability in Haiti's destruction also provides a stark reminder of the importance of a left media. We need to support progressive media by passing articles along, publicly promoting it and most of all providing left media with the financial resources necessary to expand. We need to build a climate where corporate (and CBC) media lies and omissions can't hide the killing of thousands of our fellow human beings.

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