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Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the extent of press freedom in Haiti. (93633)

The media in Haiti is dominated by private radio stations and while levels of state censorship are low, there are problems such as violence against journalists and resulting self-censorship. Press freedom was severely limited in Haiti during former President Aristide's period in office, which ended in February 2004. While some improvements in the situation were reported in the following months, the situation remained fragile under the interim Government that led Haiti until this year's presidential elections. There were a number of reports of violent attacks on journalists by armed gangs, and of impunity for the perpetrators in that interim period. An event of particular concern was the kidnap and murder of journalist Jacques Roche in July 2005. Bringing those responsible for attacks on press freedom to justice is essential and is one of the motivations behind the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti's focus on the reform of the police and judicial system. Encouragingly, the recently elected President, Rene Preval, has also expressed his determination to tackle this and other human rights problems in Haiti.