15 April 2010

Campaigns and Advocacy

Media slowly resurfacing, operations centre approaching three-month mark

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(RSF/IFEX) - 12 April 2010 - The Haitian press is slowly resurfacing three months after the 12 January 2010 earthquake that ravaged the capital and surrounding region and killed 230,000 people. That is the assessment of our Haitian correspondent, Claude Gilles, manager of the Media Operations Centre that Reporters Without Borders and the Canadian media group Quebecor set up nine days after the earthquake with the government's support.

Twenty-five of Port-au-Prince's approximately 50 radio stations were able to resume broadcasting during the month after the earthquake, thanks in many cases to logistic help from Radio France. Others took longer and many are operating from very makeshift studios.

"We had to abandon the building that had housed our station for the past 18 years," Tropic FM manager Guy Jean told Reporters Without Borders. "We resumed broadcasting last week from a small house with a zinc roof and plywood walls put up in the culture ministry's garden."

Jean-Lucien Borges, the owner of Radio-Télé Ginen, a radio and TV station that was very badly damaged on 12 January, said: "I don't know if one can talk of a makeshift shelter, but we are now working in our own premises, on the original site." The radio station was back on the air a few days after the quake, followed by the TV station, with the help of equipment recovered from the rubble and reinstalled in a tent in Cour de Saint-Louis, one of the capital's main refugee camps. "We have completely cleared and reequipped our premises, our own 'Ground Zero'," Borges said.

Father Désinord Jean, the manager of the Catholic Church-run Radio-Télé Soleil, said: "We have not lost hope despite the loss of our archives and lack of resources." Temporarily located in a private residence in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétion-Ville, the station is operating at 85 per cent of its pre-quake level with equipment recovered from the ruins of the Port-au-Prince archbishop's headquarters, which was badly damaged by fire and looted a few hours after the earthquake.

Radio-Télé Soleil is still awaiting the subsidy that the government promised to around 100 news media. It is also still waiting to receive a prefabricated shelter.

Print media are back

"We are about to resume daily issues," said Max Chauvet, owner and publisher of "Le Nouvelliste", a newspaper founded in 1898 that is the country's leading daily. Initially published only online after the earthquake, it reappeared in print for the first time in the form of a special issue six weeks later. The public's response exceeded expectations.

"The staff will stay at the temporary headquarters in Pétion-Ville but the newspaper will be printed at Rue du Centre," editor Robenson Geffrard said, referring to its badly-damaged original headquarters in the city centre, where Venezuelan technicians helped to repair the presses. Half of the newspaper's pre-quake staff of 24 reporters have just been rehired.

Haiti's other leading newspaper, "Le Matin", has had to go back to being printed in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where it was being printed until eight months before the earthquake. Originally a daily, it is now appearing biweekly. Unfortunately, the management plans to lay off 30 per cent of the staff for lack of funds.

Meeting place

Equipped with 20 work stations, the Media Operations Centre is currently receiving an average of 17 journalist visits a day. Its computer equipment was used a total of 358 times in March. The centre does more than offer technical support to journalists who have been hit by the earthquake. It is reinforcing its capacity to host events and is making itself available as a place where people can meet, exchange views and do training.

For the past month, it has been hosting the weekly meetings of NGO representatives in charge of communication, with an average of 18 participants at each meeting. It has just inaugurated a "Humanitarian Journalism" seminar at the initiative of Internews, the leading NGO in the field of media rebuilding. Two other workshops are planned in this programme and the centre will soon be assisted by two trainers from the Agence France-Presse Enterprise Foundation.

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