Journalist, activist among at least five killed in Haiti

Gunmen killed a journalist, a political activist and at least three other people in a rash of overnight shootings blamed on street gangs in Haiti’s capital, the government said Wednesday. 

Photographs of reporter Diego Charles lying dead on the ground and of Antoinette Duclair in her car circulated on Haitian social media. 

Duclair was dropping Charles off at his home when they were shot.

At least three other people were shot and killed later in the same neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, angering locals who protested by dumping flaming tires in the road.

Prime Minister Claude Joseph’s office released a statement expressing his condolences over the killings.

“These horrible crimes and these reprehensible actions cannot go unpunished in a democratic society,” Joseph said.

Gang violence has been sharply on the rise this year, with gun fights between rival groups prompting many residents of poor districts of the city to flee their homes.

“We are dismayed by this murder, which lengthens the list of journalists killed in the past three years,” said Jacques Desrosiers, head of the Haitian Journalists Association.

“As they always do, judicial authorities will announce investigations that lead nowhere,” said Desrosiers. “We are used to that.”

In 2000, Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, was murdered in a case that remains unsolved to this day.

“There was no justice for Jean Dominique, as there will be none for Diego. We are left to fend for ourselves,” said Assad Volcy, director of Gazette Haiti, an online news outlet for which Charles worked.

– ‘I had to leave’ –

More recently, photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur went to the now gang-plagued Martissant neighborhood of the capital on a reporting assignment in 2018 and was never heard from again.

Police have still not published the results of DNA tests performed on a body found a few days after Legagneur vanished.

Probes into the killing of two journalists in 2019 yielded nothing, either.

Thousands of residents of Martissant have become refugees in their own city, living in sports centers or temporary accommodation in private homes because of the gang violence.

Undermined by insecurity and political instability, Haiti is struggling to emerge from a string of seemingly never-ending crises, which of late have resulted in a surge in kidnappings and gang violence.

Daniella Francois sleeps each night on a small foam mattress in a gymnasium.

While the gym is just several hundred meters (yards) from the Martissant neighborhood where Francois has lived her entire life, the move has nonetheless been jarring.

The 18-year-old orphan, who lives alone with her four-year-old daughter, had to flee suddenly on June 1.

“When the armed men finally arrived on my street, I had no choice, I had to leave,” she said. “The guys don’t play around — whoever is in front of them they do what they want with.”

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