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POPULAR JOURNALIST MURDERED AS KIDNAPPINGS SOAR

The bullet-sprayed and handcuffed body of Jacques Roche, a well-known Haitian journalist kidnapped on 10 July 2005, has been found on a Port-au-Prince street, says Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Roche's mutilated body was found on 14 July. He had been tortured and shot several times by his abductors, who had demanded a ransom of US$250,000. Roche was the arts and cultural editor of "La Matin", a private daily newspaper. He also hosted a popular television programme.

A statement released by RSF referred to the murder as "barbaric and heinous," saying "the Haitian press has lost a renowned journalist and Haiti has lost a leading advocate of its culture." RSF has called on the authorities to find and punish Roche's murderers. The United Nations Mission in Haiti described the murder as a "brutal and vile" act and an attack on freedom of the press. The Mission has been playing a peace-keeping role in the country since the ousting of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in March 2004.

On the other hand, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Roche?s abduction and murder "do not appear to be directly related to his work, but journalists have limited their movements in response to the pervasive climate of lawlessness."

According to a BBC report, police say more than 450 people have been kidnapped in Haiti since March. The unrest raises concern about whether elections will be able to go ahead as planned later this year.

Nancy Roc, host of the weekly Radio Métropole programme "Métropolis", was forced to flee the country on 16 June after being threatened with abduction. Roc told RSF that there are now as many as 10 kidnappings a day in Port-au-Prince. Radio Métropole director Richard Widmaier narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt on 11 June.

Roche is the third journalist to be killed in Haiti this year. In January, Abdias Jean, a correspondent for the Miami-based radio station WKAT-AM (1360), was killed while covering a police operation, reported the International Press Institute (IPI). On 20 March, Robenson Laraque, a reporter for the private radio station Tele Contact, died in a Cuban hospital of injuries sustained while covering clashes between UN troops and disgruntled members of the disbanded Haitian military.

Gonzalo Marroquín of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said that "given the unstable environment in Haiti, the IAPA has committed itself to supporting the work of journalists and the media in that country." In August, IAPA will hold a seminar on safety for Haitian journalists in the city of Cap Haitien.

For more information on Haiti, visit:
- RSF Haiti Annual Report: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=13217
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Haiti14july05na.html
- IPI: http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/Americas/haiti.htm
- IAPA: http://www.sipiapa.com/pressreleases/chronologicaldetail.cfm?PressReleaseID=1429
- VOA: http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-07-16-voa12.cfm
- BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4684697.stm
- Haiti Country Profile: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1202772.stm

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