Embedding CBC Reporters in Haiti’s Elitist Media
Here is the introduction to an article about a $2 million CIDA media project in Haiti. The complete article (5,000 words with 88 references), is too long to present here. However, it can be seen at the link below, in pdf format, as it appears - with graphics - in issue #62 of Press for Conversion!: http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/62/62_26-33.pdf
Embedding CBC Reporters in Haiti’s Elitist Media By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!
The goal of Freedom Network (Réseau Liberté, RL), says Paul Breton, the director of its international programs, is to assist the media in “countries in transition to democracy.” RL’s founder and CEO, Réal Barnabé, also stresses their noble sounding ambition to “promote press freedom in countries in transition, and in emerging countries,” such as “Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo [and] Bosnia.”
Left unmentioned is that these places have all been ravaged by wars, invasions and/or regime changes in which Canada and its allies have actively participated. And neither do Barnabé or Breton question whether these military interventions have actually created real “transitions to democracy.” That is accepted as a matter of faith.
Since its creation in 1996, RL has worked hand in glove with the Canadian government in about 25 carefully targeted countries. In this work, funded largely by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), RL has often teamed up with other Canadian organizations. For example, when conducting seminars on “business journalism” for Haitians and Iraqis, RL teamed up with the Haïtian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Alternatives, respectively.
RL also works with a slew of governmental and quasi-governmental entities that support the kind of democracy, human rights, development and press freedom, that led to the 2004 regime change in Haiti.
Media Project in Haiti
RL was initially contracted by CIDA during the Canadian-backed coup regime to conduct a two-year, $2 million project called “Media and Democratic Development in Haiti.” This project began in May 2005 but has been extended until August 2008. RL’s partners in this enterprise are Alternatives, which created a “Media in Haiti” website and the CBC’s Canadian Institute for Training in Public Broadcasting (CITPB), which described the project as “promoting democratic transition in Haiti.”
Their method of promoting democracy includes sending Canadian journalists to work in the Haitian newsrooms of an extremely right-wing media cartel called the National Association of the Haitian Media (ANMH). This network formed in 2001 by the “owners and directors of 12 radio and three TV stations” was a cornerstone of the Group of 184 (G184). This CIDA-funded coalition’s propaganda effort to overthrow Haiti’s democratically elected Lavalas Party government, was led by Haiti’s media elite in ANMH.)
ANMH’s stated “mission” is “to help Haitian journalists’ associations and to professionalise the Haitian media.” This directly matches RL’s mission to “support activities” of Haitian “journalists’ or media associations” and to assist in the “professionalization of a free press.”
With this shared ideological mission, RL forged intimate ties with several ANMH companies. Backed by CIDA, RL hired Canadian journalists to spend a month at a time working with six Haitian news teams including ANMH’s Le Matin, Le Nouvelliste, Radio Metropole and Radio Caraibes. In January 2004, independent journalist Kevin Pina, listed these radio stations among the “active players in the U.S. campaign to destabilize Haiti’s constitutional government. With total disregard for principles of ‘objective journalism,’ they circulate exaggerated reports of violence by Lavalas, turn a blind eye to violence on the part of the opposition [whose]….clear objective…is to throw the constitution in the trash and force President Aristide to resign.”
This process of working “alongside reporters and editors,…in the field” and “in their daily tasks,” says RL, means “the expert acts as a partner.” This strategy created a “bond of trust” between these Canadians and the Haitian “journalists and managers” who hosted them. RL, which calls this process “accompanying” or “coaching,” notes that they made it “clear that the coaching would respect the needs and editorial line and freedom of the media.”
What was the “editorial line” of Haiti’s media?
Charles Arthur’s report on Haiti in the World Press Freedom Review explained:
“The main, Port-au-Prince-based media houses grouped in the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) continued to take an open position of support for the ouster of [Aristide’s] Lavalas Family government and of extreme hostility to the large swathes of the poor population who continued to voice support for the exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The ANMH radio stations in particular exercised a clear editorial line favouring the Group of 184, a political platform led by the country’s small private sector. At the same time, these stations’ news broadcasts consistently described opponents of the interim government, living in shanty-towns, such as Bel Air and Cité Soleil, as ‘outlaws’ and ‘terrorists.’”
Such views were echoed in RL’s newsletter when Guy Filionthe assistant program director for CBC’s French news services praised the Haitian media’s election coverage by saying that besides airing live media conferences of the coup-installed prime minister, the regime’s police and the UN forces occupying the country, “Even thugs from Cité Soleil were giving interviews on television! This was true election coverage….” This use of “thugs” to represent those Haitians who opposed the coup regime (and who had previously empowered Aristide’s government in two landslide electoral victories) cannot be considered balanced reporting. However, it was considered “true election coverage” by this CIDA-paid Canadian journalist hired by RL to train Haiti’s media in proper, election journalism.
It is not known whether Filion harboured these prejudices before his deployment to Haiti, or whether he acquired them once there while “trying to understand,” as he put it, “the state of mind of the directors of the Haitian national television [TNH].”
By placing Canadian journalists into this rabidly partisan, anti-Aristide milieu, RL ran ethical risks akin to embedding journalists within military forces. Reporters placed in ANMH’s combative newsrooms may not face physical casualties, but they do work on the frontlines of an information war where assaults on objectivity occur daily. If RL’s Canadian journalists did not already harbour anti-Aristide sentiments before their intensive “coaching” experiences, they would certainly risk absorbing such political predilections after being submerged in the propaganda campaigns of Haiti’s elite media. Not unlike captives, who when released spout the political rhetoric of their kidnappers (in what is called the “Stockholm Syndrome”), RL journalists would likely return home from Haiti armed with newly implanted political biases that could then be spread liberally among their colleagues in the media and hence to the broader Canadian public. A cynical mind might even think that such domestic propaganda spinoffs were one of the intended benefits to the Canadian government of this $2 million CIDA project which ostensibly promoted “Media and Democratic Development in Haiti.”
To read the rest of this article, click on the link below: http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/62/62_26-33.pdf
By clinking on the above link, you can see the complete article, in pdf format, as it appears - with graphics - in issue #62 of Press for Conversion!
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Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting: CIDA’s Agents of Regime Change in Haiti’s 2004 Coup
Hot off the Press! The latest 54-page issue of Press for Conversion! magazine is now available!
This issue contains a wealth of new material detailing how the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) contracted a variety of organizations in Canada to aid and abet its policy of regime change in Haiti. Although these largely Quebec-based organizations are part of movements dedicated to peace, development, human rights, “Third World” development and “democracy promotion,” they played essential roles in destabilizing President Aristide’s elected government. Some of these Canadian organizations funneled CIDA grants to their “partner” groups in Haiti to conduct virulently partisan, anti-Aristide campaigns. Other CIDA-funded groups in Canada contributed to the cause by lending legitimacy to the brutal dictatorship that was illegally installed in 2004. As enthusiastic cheerleaders for Canada’s role in the 2004 coup, CIDA’s agents of regime change also helped with propaganda efforts to cover up the worst of the human rights abuses overseen by the coup-backed regime.
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