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Armed men kidnap Haitian radio reporter

Published Jul 17, 2002

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Port-au-Prince - A group of armed men kidnapped a reporter for a radio station in the Haitian capital after he had received a series of death threats, family members and radio station sources said on Tuesday.

Israel Jacky Cantave, a reporter for Radio Caraibes, was seized along with his cousin by men who ran Cantave's car off the road as he was driving home late on Monday night after finishing his radio programme, witnesses said. His car was later found abandoned in Port-au-Prince.

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The climate of press freedom in Haiti has deteriorated in recent years. Human rights and press freedom groups have criticized President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government for allowing what they call a "climate of impunity" to develop following the slayings of two high-profile journalists.

Jean Leopold Dominique, director of Radio Haiti Inter, was gunned down along with his station's caretaker on April 3 2000. Brignol Lindor, news director of Radio Echo 2000, was hacked to death by a pro-government mob on December 3 2001, in the town of Petit Goave.

A source at Radio Caraibes, who asked not to be named, said anonymous callers had been phoning the station threatening Cantave's life for unspecified reasons for several days. No ransom demand had yet been received.

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A New York-based media freedom group, which last month concluded on a fact-finding mission that journalists in the Caribbean nation work in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, expressed concern at Cantave's disappearance.

"We are extremely alarmed at Cantave's apparent kidnapping," Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement. "We urge Haitian authorities to do everything they possibly can to clarify the whereabouts of Cantave and his cousin and to bring them back safely."

The investigation into the Dominique killing has focused on a powerful senator from the ruling Lavalas Family party, Dany Toussaint, a former Haitian army officer and former head of Aristide's personal security team who Dominique had criticized in the months before he was killed.

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A judge investigating the case named Toussaint as a suspect but the senator denied any part in the killing.

Two judges investigating the Dominique slaying have resigned, claiming they had received death threats. Two material witnesses have been killed.

There has been one arrest in the Lindor killing, but no trial date has been set as yet.

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