Haiti: president gave reporters Xmas presents

The government of Haitian president Michel Joseph Martelly presented a group of reporters with cash gifts during a reception on Dec. 23, according to an open letter published on Jan. 26 by the management of Radio Kiskeya. Reporters with press credentials for presidential functions were given "envelopes containing 50,000 gourdes [about US$1,065] and 40,000 gourdes [about US$852] respectively," the station wrote. Recipients said President Martelly had offered them what he called "a little gift whose small size they shouldn't take offense at," and then referred them to his spokesperson, Lucien Jura, and Esther Fatal, head of the Communication Office of the Presidency; the two officials gave the journalists the envelopes.

Radio Kiskeya said three of its reporters accepted the cash; they were "severely disciplined," according to the letter, which didn't reveal their names or those of other reporters who took the "gifts." "This isn't the first time journalists have received bribes," Franck Séguy, a professor at the State University of Haiti (UEH) and a former journalist, told Haitian news site AlterPresse, although the practice "has never been discussed in the press." He said a major cause is that Haitian journalists aren't paid enough to live in dignity and are allowed to "supplement their salary elsewhere." (Radio Kiskeya, Jan. 26; Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Jan. 27; AlterPresse, Jan. 29)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, February 1.