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Media Operations Centre gets government backing

(RSF/IFEX) - Haiti's culture and communications minister, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn-Lassègue, has given her support for the Media Operations Centre installed in Port-au-Prince by Reporters Without Borders and Quebecor. Their representatives were to meet with her in the capital on 21 January 2010 to discuss the way the centre will function and the choice of journalists to run it.

The centre's mandate is to:
1- make the equipment that Haitian journalists need to work available to them
2- act as a place where they can meet their international colleagues
3- offer the various organisations that defend journalists in Haiti a place where they can operate
4- act as a news centre for the various government authorities and NGOs that want to address as many media as possible
5- advise and assist the government and its partners as regards re-launching news media that were hit by the 12 January earthquake, both in the capital and provinces, especially in the towns of Petit-Goâve, Grand-Goâve and Léogâne, which were very badly affected.

Located on Cheriez Street in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Canapé-Vert, the centre has room for up to 20 journalists to work at any one time, a news conference room that can hold 40 people and a terrace that can hold 60 people. It will have broadband Internet, telephone lines, an audio and video conference system, a satellite TV link and printers, as well as facilities for journalists in distress.

Canada's governor-general, Michaëlle Jean, was expected to address a message in Creole to the Haitian people via the centre on 22 January. RSF invites Haitian President René Préval to hold a meeting with the press in the centre and hopes the presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of the countries with particularly close ties with Haiti will also choose this way to make a concrete commitment to the reconstruction of the Haitian media.

According to Mark Harvey, who is leading the European response for Internews, an international media development organisation which has been designated by UNOCHA to coordinate all international media assistance efforts to Haiti, "Local journalists in Port-au-Prince are the vital link between the humanitarian relief and the Haitian population who is desperate for information. Haitian media professionals are struggling to get back to their vital work, and the importance of the work of Reporters Without Borders in helping to do this cannot be underestimated."

This centre belongs to Haiti's journalists. Its ability to continue operating in the medium term will depend on the technical and financial assistance it receives from other NGOs, international bodies and foreign media.

Reporters Without Borders and Quebecor would finally like to pay tribute to two journalists who died in the earthquake: Wanel Fils of Radio Galaxie in Port-au-Prince and Bazelais Volcy of Radio Echo 2000 in Petit-Goâve.

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