A well-known Haitian journalist survived an assassination attempt on Tuesday that left his car riddled with bullets in the capital of Port-au-Prince, officials said.
Roberson Alphonse, who works at the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste and at radio station Magik9, is hospitalized but is expected to recover, according to Frantz Duval, chief editor for both media. He said Alphonse has undergone two operations so far.
Also on Tuesday, authorities found the body of another journalist who had been missing for several days. Garry Tess used to host a political talk show in the southern city of Les Cayes, according to the government’s Office of Citizen Protection, which said it was extremely worried about the security of journalists in Haiti and urged they be protected.
No one has been arrested in either case, although journalists in Haiti have long been the target of warring gangs who have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
Duval thanked an unidentified person he said rescued Alphonse and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding before medical help arrived.
Duval noted the car had more than 10 bullet holes, adding that neither Alphonse nor any of his colleagues were available for comment.
“Health is the absolute priority,” he wrote. “Thank you to everyone for your understanding.”
Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communication said it learned “with horror the news of the assassination attempt” that occurred in the Delmas neighbourhood as Alphonse headed to the radio station for work.
“His rigour, his effort to be impartial, and his sense of perfection make him a model for the profession,” the ministry said in a statement.
Many colleagues echoed the sentiment, including Widlore Merancourt of the online news site AyiboPost.
“My friend, Roberson Alphonse could be anything he wants anywhere in the world. He picked Haiti. He also could’ve (made) millions selling his platforms. He opted for integrity and independence. I love him and I wish him well,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the president of Haiti’s Senate, Joseph Lambert, demanded a judicial investigation.
The attack comes more than a month after two other journalists identified as Tayson Latigue and Frantzsen Charles were fatally shot and their bodies set on fire while reporting in a slum controlled by gangs.
In January, gang members killed two other journalists who were reporting in Laboule, a community south of Port-au-Prince.
The Miami-based Inter American Press Association has said this year has been one of the most violent for the press since record-keeping began in 1987.
Journalists also are still seeking justice in the March 2018 disappearance of freelance photographer Vladjimir Legagneur, who was last seen in Port-au-Prince’s Grand Ravine area, one of the poorest and most dangerous.
The attack on Alphonse comes just weeks after Haitian leaders requested the immediate deployment of foreign troops as the country faces an unprecedented crisis. One of Haiti’s most powerful gangs surrounded a main fuel terminal more than a month ago, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry as they prevent the distribution of petroleum. Gas stations have shut down, banks and grocery stores are operating on limited hours and potable water is becoming scarce as the country battles a cholera breakout that has killed at least 40 people, with more than 1,750 suspected cases so far.
UNICEF warned on Monday that the actual number is likely much higher given under-reporting. The agency noted that it has only been able to find a third of the 70,000 gallons of fuel needed to serve more than half of 16 cholera treatment centres in Port-au-Prince.
On Tuesday, the European Union said it was extremely concerned about the deterioration of Haiti’s situation, adding that it has reached unsustainable levels.
“The EU regrets that as a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds and protests have been co-opted by gangs, escalating into violence, looting and territorial gains for armed gangs, political actors have so far failed to find a political solution to the crisis,” it said. “The EU therefore urges all political actors to … engage in constructive negotiations to overcome the current political crisis and its security and humanitarian consequences.”