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Survivors exhausted and traumatised; media crippled

Media environment is shattered by Haitian earthquake, impeding information flow for humanitarian aid.
Media environment is shattered by Haitian earthquake, impeding information flow for humanitarian aid.

via Reuters

Not only did the devastating earthquake on 12 January in Haiti leave survivors with no food, no water, no shelter and no place to bury the dead, but it also left them with little or no information, report IFEX members. The media have also suffered great losses at a time when people urgently need aid information.

The death toll for journalists is unknown. Surviving Haitian journalists are unable to work because they have lost family and homes, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) after talking to Haitian journalist Guylar Delva. Delva, 43, is the founder of SOS Journalistes, created to protect local reporters and promote professional journalism. The SOS offices have been reduced to rubble. "An experienced reporter who has covered both natural disasters and political violence, Delva said he has never seen anything like this."

CPJ is attempting to find out what Haitian journalists need right now and beginning to collect funds. RSF and AMARC are asking for donations for media reconstruction, including equipment.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) notes that media and communications following the earthquake were almost entirely cut off, with the exception of Skype.

Coordinating disaster relief is impossible without accurate news and information being relayed by a functioning news media. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is working with Canadian media group Quebecor to set up a media centre for Haitian journalists in Port-au-Prince, so they can report on the situation and contribute to the process of providing humanitarian aid to the population.

The centre will also service international news media searching for information on Haiti, and will eventually be used to produce and disseminate news and information by employing Haitian print journalists. It will also have facilities for journalists in distress.

The premises of Port-au-Prince-based TV stations Tele Ginen and Canal 11 and radio station Magik 9 have been destroyed, reports RSF. A Tele Ginen cameraman was killed, says CPJ and RSF. According to RSF, Radio Ibo is damaged and unable to broadcast, but three other radio stations continued to function after the earthquake. The offices of newspapers "Le Nouvelliste" and "Le Matin" are still standing and the staff survived, but the editor of "Le Nouvelliste" is missing. A journalist who writes for "Ticket Magazine" is believed to have been killed.

A week after the earthquake, 20 radio stations are operating again, including the UN mission's station, due to the help of foreign technicians and Radio France, reports RSF. Other radio stations in the country survived but their equipment was seriously damaged. Many community radio stations were completely destroyed.

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is carrying out an urgent assessment of the status of community broadcasting in the crisis areas and is working to mobilise resources and technical assistance. AMARC is calling on community broadcasters to support the international relief effort by organising airtime appeals.

An Internews team of media specialists, radio technicians and humanitarian liaison experts is heading to Haiti to determine the damage to the media infrastructure. They are also taking portable broadcast equipment that can be used to quickly broadcast emergency information. Internews recently worked on a project with 40 community radio stations throughout the country.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is mobilising its members in the Americas to provide assistance to media workers in Haiti. The "Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa" (SNTP), an IFJ affiliate in the Dominican Republic, is helping investigate the status of journalists in Haiti.

RSF "hopes to get news media in countries that are providing significant amounts of aid to Haiti, such as Canada, Brazil, the United States and France, to become financial and logistic sponsors of Haitian media that need rebuilding."

To donate to CPJ, please see: http://cpj.org/blog/2010/01/how-to-help-journalists-in-haiti.php

For equipment donations to AMARC, contact: secretariat (@) si.amarc.org

For donations to community radio relief in Haiti, visit: http://visa.amarc.org/?pd=Haiti%20Radios

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