Support to media in Haiti: Emergency phase and mid-term actions

Since an earthquake shook major cities in Haiti on 12 January and destroyed houses, lives and livelihoods for millions of Haitians, international relief agencies have taken action to come to the rescue of the inhabitants. Still, days after the disaster, media reports from the disaster area tell stories of bottlenecks in relief efforts and of continuing suffering of the people of Haiti.

Immediate actions for UNESCO

Major NGOs (AMARC and Internews) have asked if UNESCO would agree to “host” in its premises and for a short period journalists and especially community radio professionals (such as Haiti Community Radio Women's Network) as their office have been destroyed. By being hosted by UNESCO, they could play a more clear role in the humanitarian relief communications network.

Undertaking a comprehensive needs assessment in close collaboration with the Minister of Communication and in consultation with local media and international organisations.

Support for conflict sensitive reporting through targeted training of journalists according to the UNESCO curriculum for conflict sensitive reporting; the rationale for this is the looming political tensions in the country aggravated by the earthquake and its social consequences.

Undertake a needs assessment of the damage done to the Haiti national archives as well as to any documentary heritage within the context of Memory of the World.

Mid- and long-term actions

Once the humanitarian phase will be over, it is important to 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.

This is a multi-phase project which will require ongoing and flexible support. It is anticipated that by the end of the project period the communication sub-sector in Haiti will show independence, freedom of expression and pluralism.

Various planned outputs

  • Developing an independent and pluralistic media sector, including the creation of a public broadcaster that serves the public interest and which can reach the whole of the country
  • Supporting gender equity and increased participation of women in the media
  • Enabling better access to information for all citizens by the reconstruction of existing and the creation of new community radios and community multimedia centres
  • Assisting in rebuilding independent media associations in an open environment
  • Rebuilding library, records and information services as basis for information and knowledge societies

Proposals

Support for professional organizations to train journalists on conflict sensitive reporting as well as on risk awareness

Journalists and editors must demonstrate their professionalism. Ethical and professional standards are required to make the best out of the pivotal role that journalism plays in today’s societies. After the earthquake and given the contextual situation, the media must report on this and their reporting should comply with high ethical standard and professional standards. In the past we have seen terrifying examples of how media have functioned in an inciting and inflammatory manner to fuel conflict. Therefore, it is proposed to train media professional to cover the reconstruction phase.

Activity 1: Provision of training for and by local journalists’ associations

Activity 2: Provision and dissemination in French and in Creole of a curriculum for Conflict-Sensitive Reporting

Developing an independent and pluralistic media sector

Without a modern legal and material infrastructure to support independent media, it is impossible to imagine longer term changes. A modern infrastructure is necessary to ensure a more even playing field for the media and the development of a true pluralism. This infrastructure must include both legal and material interventions such as capacity building and training in order to help all take advantage of the new conditions.

Rebuilding the media landscape also implies ensuring that organizations of media professionals are able to develop lateral as well as vertical networks in the Haitian society. Such professional associations foster an esprit de corps that ensures the advocacy of media professionals for the working conditions that will enable a free and independent press.

Activity 3: Assistance for legal reform and infrastructure

Activity 4: Support to Public Service Broadcasting

Activity 5: Material and capacity building for the Maison de la presse (RSF centre that should become a Maison de la Presse)

Activity 6: Support to the Haitian journalists association

Supporting gender equity in the media

Currently women are only a small percentage of professionals in the Haitian media, despite very active organizations of female media professionals. Gender equity is an important component of the modernization of the media landscape in Haiti. In addition to including women’s perspectives in the media, improved access to training and jobs for women provides a more equal society. This cannot be achieved solely by increasing the number of women trained, but requires comprehensive support for women’s media organizations and for the position of women in the media.

Activity 7: Support for women in the media ( Inclusion of women in their professional capacity in all trainings; creation of and support for trainings and discussion groups addressing particular situation of Haitian women in media, etc)

Widening access to information for all

Free access to information by citizens is an essential condition for good governance, democracy and development. In societies where information is tightly restricted, the climate is rife for rumors, corruption and injustice to flourish.

Access to information also means giving people the means to create media and information in ways appropriate to their communities. Community radio has proven to be the most cost-effective and sustainable medium for providing this kind of two-way access. Well-managed community radio can provide a sense of community cohesion around a common project, train community members young and old in managing new technologies and in free expression, and encourage long-term integration of media and new information technologies into community life.

Activity 8: Support for Community Radio and Community Media Centers

Activity 9: Access to Internet via cyber-café as well as in schools

Rehabilitation of archives and libraries

In the 1990s, UNESCO/UNDP implemented a project to assist in modernizing the National Archives. Training of staff in different areas was undertaken and equipment was provided under the project to improve the microfilming and computerization of records.

UNESCO also worked closely with the Pères du Saint-Esprit Library (reportedly now destroyed) in connection with the Memory of the World Programme to digitize some of the important items in its collection. Copies may have been held elsewhere, but the precious originals kept safely hidden throughout the Duvalier regime, may now have been lost.

There is still very conflicting information coming out of Haiti. Bibliothèques sans Frontières has stated that the roof of the Archive building has collapsed. The Archives held the civil records files and if these have been lost it will have severe consequences for the identification of victims and for survivor’s rights.

It has been reported that the records of the Ministry of Justice were burnt by escaped prisoners to destroy evidence of their deeds, and other human rights could be affected as a result. Other considerations that must be borne in mind include the potential loss of records due to climatic conditions. Mould and mildew will quickly set in under humid, tropical conditions and rain will compound the destruction.

Libraries play an important role in building communities, and their reopening or reconstruction will help to foster hope among the displaced and dispossessed populations, apart from serving as a locale where people can go to obtain information of all kinds and even reconnect with friends and family.

After a phase of identification of damage and assessment of needs for protection, rehabilitation and further development of libraries, archives, records and information services, it is proposed to reconstruct vital records documenting citizens' rights (identity records, property records, legal records, etc.) as well as train library, archives and records service staff (especially national institutions, government offices, educational institutions)

Formal partners in the heritage field include: ICA, IFLA and CCAAA who could work with us within the context of the Blue Shield to ensure a coordinated action.

Activity 10: Rebuilding library, records and information services as basis for information and knowledge societies, particularly: public libraries; schools, universities and other educational institutions; government offices.

Back to top