According to Petit-Goâve public prosecutor Alix Civil, they are charged with defamation, disturbing public order and destruction of public property. Officials have confiscated the transmitter and other equipment from the radio station, which is owned by Joseph.
Guyteau Mathieu, the secretary-general of the Les Palmes Regional Media Association, told Reporters Without Borders that Joseph and François went to the prosecutor’s office after getting a summons in response to a complaint by several civil society representatives and local officials, including mayor Justal Ronald, about information and opinions voiced during their programmes.
A group of supporters accompanied the journalists to the prosecutor’s office, while the mayor arrived with his own group of supporters.
Clashes ensued, stones were thrown at the prosecutor’s office and people were injured. The prosecutor ordered the arrest of Joseph and François while they were in his office. Joseph Guyler C. Delva, the secretary-general of SOS Journalistes, said the prosecutor apparently blamed them for the actions of some of their supporters.
A justice of the peace placed a seal over the entrance to Radio Prévention the same day after removing its equipment in a police car. Joseph and François have been transferred to the main police station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Carrefour.
Contrary to the general trend in the Americas, Haitian legislation still provides for jail sentences in cases of defamation. This violates international media freedom standards and the jurisprudence set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Aside from the defamation proceedings, the other arbitrary charges against these two journalists constitute an abuse of authority and a form of censorship. As well as their immediate and unconditional release, Reporters Without Borders calls for an impartial investigation and the return of the confiscated equipment.
Three other journalists, Eddy Jackson Alexis, Josias Pierre and Jacques Innocent, are currently facing defamation charges which were brought against them by Télévision Nationale d’Haïti director-general Pradel Henriquez after they were fired in April (http://en.rsf.org/haiti-state-tv-chief-fires-three-12-04-2011,40011.html).