In Haiti, Mammas Don't Let Their Babies Grow Up To Be Journalists

Here's a Monday morning headline for you:

'In Haiti killers of journalists enjoy 100% immunity'

That's from the Guardian, which brings readers the story of Guy Delva, a veteran reporter in "desperately poor and unstable" Haiti who regularly receives death threats.

Writes reporter Duncan Campbell (Reg. required):

As attention focuses understandably on the deaths of Paul Douglas and James Brolan, the CBS cameraman and soundman, in Iraq, it is easy to forget that, in some parts of the world, it is the local reporter who runs the greatest risk. In countries such as Haiti, Colombia and the Philippines, journalists face threats and violence on a daily basis from politicians or businessmen whose paths they have crossed.
Three journalists were murdered in Haiti last year, and Delva says "jailing and beating journalists is normal." When Watson Desir, one of his colleagues, was kidnapped by a gang from one of Port-au-Prince's most dangerous neighborhoods, Delva tried to intervene:
"Someone called and I was given the kidnappers' number. They started by asking for $80,000 and I said 'come on guys, where are you going to find that kind of money?'" The ransom demand was finally negotiated down to $4,500 and Delva was told that he had to go to Cite Soleil alone with the money. He was turned back at a UN checkpoint and told that it was too volatile to enter Cite Soleil at that time. The kidnappers rang to ask him what was happening, so he made a second attempt to reach them which ended in a burst of heavy gunfire, and again Delva was unable to get through. "They rang me again and said 'do you need him?' - in other words they were going to kill him so I ran the car through the UN (checkpoint)." Once in Cite Soleil he was approached by the kidnapper and was allowed to take Desir in exchange for the money but not before another burst of heavy gunfire.
Many Haitian journalists have left the country, and parents try to dissuade children who want to get into the profession. Haiti has no tradition of investigative journalism, according to Delva, which means that officials and businessmen don't fear publicity for their corruption.

As I've noted before, American media is certainly flawed, but too often, both journalists and media consumers forget how good we have it. In countries like Haiti, being a journalist means risking your own life and the lives of your family -- Delva's doesn't like to be in the car with him. Stories like his underscore both the importance of a free press and the bravery of journalists who lack a first amendment of their own.