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Committee will oversee investigations of journalist murders

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 13 August 2007 CPJ press release:

Committee will oversee Haitian investigations of journalist murders

New York, August 13, 2007 - The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the creation of an independent committee of Haitian journalists that will review the progress of official investigations into the unsolved murders of journalists in Haiti from 2000 to 2007.

Haitian President René Préval announced Friday the creation of the committee, which will be composed of nine Port-au-Prince-based journalists from different media outlets, said Guyler Delva, president of the local press freedom group S.O.S. Journalistes.

According to Delva, the committee was a joint initiative between S.O.S. Journalistes and Préval. The group, which is completely independent from the Haitian government, received public pledges of support Friday from high government officials, including the Haitian minister of justice and the chief of police, local press reported.

"We are gratified President Préval recognizes the critical importance of this issue and are hopeful the creation of this commission can help move these unsolved investigations forward," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "But the real test of the Haitian government's resolve will be their ability to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The committee will have access to official police and court documents on the murders of at least 10 journalists, Delva told CPJ. It will study the case files one by one, determine where and why they have stalled, and issue public reports with recommendations on how to speed up the process, he said.

"The state must make providing justice a priority," Préval was quoted saying by The Associated Press.

Delva said the committee will begin by examining the case of Haitian journalist Jean-Léopold Dominique, owner and director of Radio Haïti-Inter and one of the country's most renowned journalists. Dominique was gunned down on April 3, 2000, outside the entrance to his Port-au-Prince station. A long-stalled case that has been characterized by incompetence and a lack of political will, Dominique's slaying remains unpunished, CPJ research shows.

Three journalists have been murdered in direct reprisal for their work in Haiti since 2000. CPJ is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the slayings of five other journalists since then to determine if those killings were work-related.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom around the world.

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