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Head of commission probing murders of journalists flees country after being threatened and followed

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned that a leading Haitian journalist, Joseph Guyler C. Delva, had to leave the country on 9 November 2007, after getting repeated death threats since 25 October and then being followed.

"The forced departure of a journalist committed to his profession shows the continuing importance of the fight for press freedom in Haiti," RSF said. "Delva has had to go into self-imposed exile three months after being put in charge of a commission that is meant to combat impunity in cases of murders of journalists."

RSF added: "This episode could not have been more untimely. We express our support for this journalist and his family and we call on the authorities to quickly shed light on the threats and intimidation that led to his hurried departure."

Delva found himself being followed while driving in Port-au-Prince on the evening of 5 November. He stopped several times to make sure he really was being followed. "When he pulled into a service station to fill up, those following him also stopped," RSF was told by Jean Wilner Morin, the spokesman of the Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ), which Delva heads.

"Some of them got out of their vehicle and walked towards Delva's car," Morin said. "Very alarmed, Delva set off again in his car and, after seeking help at the Pétion-Ville police station, police officers escorted him home." On the advice of his family, he decided to leave for the United States for the time being.

The CIAPEAJ was created on 10 August at President René Préval's initiative with the aim of helping the authorities to combat impunity in a series of murders of journalists in recent years. RSF has been told that Delva's role at the head of the commission was probably not the sole reason for the threats against him.

The Haiti correspondent of several foreign news media, including the BBC and Reuters, and the host of a news programme on Mélodie FM, a Port-au-Prince radio station, Delva had referred to sensitive issues on the air, including the case of a senator who allegedly has dual US and Haitian citizenship, which is illegal under the 1987 constitution.

Delva got two anonymous calls on his mobile phone on 25 October in which he was warned: "You had better watch out, because we know where you are and we are going to get you."

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