(AP) At least six Haitian journalists fled their homeland and are preparing asylum cases in the United States following last month’s failed coup.
As many as 40 journalists went into hiding after supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide attacked reporters outside the National Palace on Dec. 17, the day of the coup attempt.
Radio journalists Phares Duverne and Yves Clausel Alexis, among the six who have come to the United States, said a mob held them at gunpoint and forced them to yell “Long live Aristide!”
“They let us leave, but they told us, ‘If you ever give news critical of the government, we will kill you,'” said Duverne, who is in South Florida on a temporary visa.
At least a dozen journalists were assaulted following the coup attempt, according to the French-based Reporters Without Borders.
Aristide condemned the violence and urged his supporters to “respect the rights of journalists.” Later that day, a radio station run by Aristide’s private Foundation for Democracy said, “Unfortunately, some of the press prepared people psychologically for the coup.”
Conditions for Haitian reporters have steadily worsened since the April 2000 assassination of Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique. On Dec. 3, Aristide supporters hacked provincial journalist Brignol Lindor to death.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said the office has received dozens of calls for help. The four Haitian journalists in Florida said they’ll seek political asylum.
“Our security is not guaranteed,” Duverne said. “There are elements that will attack us anyhow.”