A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

International Journalism IN-BRIEF

By Quill

Seven Haitian journalists in hiding

Seven surviving colleagues of Brignol Lindor, a Haitian journalist hacked to death one year ago in a political attack, say they believe they are being targeted by armed government supporters.

The seven journalists were in hiding Dec. 3 as police broke up demonstrations with tear gas and protesters called for President Jean-Bertrant Aristide to be ousted. “Under Aristide, the independent press in Haiti lives in total insecurity,” said Esdras Mondelus, owner of Radio Etincelles. Mondelus and six others from Gonaives, a northwestern town, spoke at a Port-au-Prince hotel. They went into hiding Nov. 21 when they received death threats from an armed group.

The present protests marked the one-year anniversary of Lindor’s death Dec. 3, 2001, outside Petit-Goave, just 45 miles west of the capital. Indicted in the slaying are 10 members of the pro-Aristide group Asleep in the Woods, but only two have been arrested.

Sixty-four journalists have been threatened or assaulted in the last year – 62 by government backers and two by opposition supporters – according to Guyler Delva, president of the Association of Haitian Journalists. Little progress has been made in the ongoing investigation of the 2000 killing of journalist Jean Dominique. Twenty journalists have fled from the country.

Australian court OKs Web defamation suit

Australia’s highest court handed down a decision Dec. 10 that reaches past the nation’s borders and could subject Internet publishers to libel lawsuits – no matter what their geographical location.

The case involved a suit from Australian mining giant Joseph Gutnick, who claimed he was defamed in an article posted online by Barron’s, a Dow Jones & Co. magazine. Gutnick says the 7,000-word article, published in October 2000, portrayed him as a schemer who indulged in stock scams, money laundering and fraud.

The High Court of Australia unanimously dismissed the Dow Jones appeal to stop the suit. Gutnick may now sue New York-based Dow Jones from his home in Victoria, Australia. The court made no decision on the merits of the libel case.

Eighteen news and Internet organizations, including The Associated Press, The New York Times Co. and Amazon.com, have joined Dow Jones to argue that jurisdiction should be determined by where exercise was last controlled by the defendant. Dow Jones publishes, in addition to Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, and several stock market indicators.

Chilean journalist sentenced to 18 months in prison
Television commentator Eduardo Y·Òez has been sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Chilean court. The Chilean Court of Appeals convicted him on Dec. 18 of “disrespect.”

The court ordered the journalist, a panelist on ChilevisiÛn’s debate show “El TermÛmetro,” in addition to jail time, to pay a $425 fine.

The sentence came after a November 2001 episode of “El TermÛmetro” on which he described the Chilean judiciary as “immoral, cowardly, and corrupt” after compensation was not given to a woman jailed for a crime she was found to have not committed. Y·Òez said the decision is a bad precedent for freedom of expression in Chile and that he will fight it “on constitutional grounds.”

“We condemn this prosecution and urge the government to reform the ‘disrespect’ provisions,” said Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Ann Cooper. “Subjecting journalists to criminal prosecution stifles public debate and inhibits the full development of Chilean democracy.”