[News] Haiti Action alert: write the NY Times about their terrible Haiti coverage

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 14 21:10:25 EST 2007


A February 10 New York Times article "UN Troops Fight
Haiti’s Gangs One Street at a Time," about violent
military operations in the poorest neighborhoods of
Port-au-Prince by MINUSTAH, the UN Peacekeeping
operation in Haiti, repeats justifications for the
raids proffered by the UN, but fails to report on the
operations’ “collateral damage”- dozens of people
killed or wounded by MINUSTAH bullets. Nor does the
article mention that the supposed beneficiaries of the
attacks- Haiti’s poor- oppose them.

Reporter Marc Lacey’s 1600-word article about violence
in the Cité Soleil neighborhood quotes extensively
from named and unnamed MINUSTAH sources, but uses only
48 words from Haitians living in Haiti. And none of
them support the MINUSTAH raids. The article fails to
mention the frequent, large-scale protests against
MINUSTAH, even though its top photo shows a MINUSTAH
soldier preparing to deploy teargas against a protest.
The Times uncritically repeats MINUSTAH spokesperson
David Wimhurst’s denial that civilians are being
killed by MINUSTAH bullets, ignoring ample contrary
evidence provided by Cité Soleil community groups,
Haitian human rights groups, the mainstream media and
even the UN itself (on January 31, MINUSTAH chief
Edmond Mulet, MINUSTAH’s head, publicly conceded that
“there has been collateral damage, definitely”).
The president of the Haitian Senate’s Human Rights
Commission described the massive December 22, 2006 UN
military assault on Cité Soleil as "a crime against
humanity." The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux,
Haiti’s most respected human rights lawyers, have
documented 31 reported deaths (including children and
the elderly), 33 wounded and 238 people displaced from
the assault. Eyewitnesses reported that a wave of
indiscriminate gunfire from heavy weapons began about
5 a.m. and continued for much of that day. Cité Soleil
resident Rose Martel told Reuters, "they [MINUSTAH]
came here to terrorize the population. I don't think
they really killed any bandits, unless they consider
all of us as bandits." John Carroll, a U.S. doctor who
treated victims of the assault in their homes, was
told that "a UN helicopter circled [Cité] Soleil and
fired bullets down on the homes of thousands of
people." The UN conceded its helicopter was there, but
denied firing from it. Dr. Carroll’s patients showed
him the bullet holes in their roof.

The Times uncritically accepts the chilling premise of
the UN’s operation: that in the words of MINUSTAH’s
top Commander, General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz
of Brazil, the UN can and should “cleanse these
areas.” The article repeats the UN’s list of
“trophies” from raids on January 25 and February 9-
young men killed- but MINUSTAH does not tell and the
Times does not ask about the procedures required by
international, Haitian and almost any national law for
pursuing people accused of criminal behavior:
warrants, arrests, evidence and some judicial
procedure before execution.

Many of the neighborhoods now under MINUSTAH siege are
bastions of support for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the
democratically-elected president whose government was
overturned in a U.S.-backed Feb.29, 2004 coup, and
Aristide's progressive Lavalas Party, still the
largest political formation in Haiti. Haiti's poorest
residents recall that the UN refused President
Aristide’s request for help to support his embattled
constitutional government in early 2004, but later
sent MINUSTAH to consolidate the 2004 coup d’etat (the
only time in history the UN has deployed a
Peacekeeping Mission without a peace agreement to
support, see Harvard Law School’s Keeping the Peace in
Haiti?).

MINUSTAH’s bullets will not stop the violence in Cité
Soleil, any more than American bullets are stopping
violence in Baghdad. The real enemy there is poverty,
which can only be fought with weapons like food,
healthcare and jobs, an approach taken by Aristide’s
Lavalas government before the 2004 coup ended its
progressive reforms. The UN will not recognize this
unless public opinion forces it to, and public opinion
will not mobilize unless the New York Times and other
papers start covering MINUSTAH’s activities with
integrity and balance.

So please write the Times today, to let the editors
know that you care about Haiti and care about balanced
media coverage. Letters must be sent by Friday 2/16.
They must be 150 words or less, and contain your name,
address, and telephone number. Letters can be emailed
toletters at nytimes.com or faxed to (202)556-3662.

Sample letters are below. 150 words is not much space,
so it is best to make one point clearly, and leave
other points to others. Choose the issue that strikes
you the most, and feel free to modify or personalize
it.

For more background on the UN in Haiti:
http://www.haitisolidarity.net/article.php?id=148
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/39640
http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_recent_news_2-11-07c.html

For information on sending letters to the Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/lettertoeditor.html

Sample letters:

1) To the Editor:

The article “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in
Haiti”(Feb.10), overlooks a fundamental question: why
are huge numbers of residents of Cité Soleil, Haiti’s
largest shantytown, repeatedly protesting the presence
of UN troops?

Your front cover photo shows demonstrators facing a UN
peacekeeper with a tear gas canister, but the article
does not mention any protests, or the UN’s role in
legitimizing the coup regime which replaced the
democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand
Aristide in February, 2004.

Nor does the article mention the readily available
evidence (from numerous human rights groups) that the
UN has engaged in excessive force, killing scores of
civilians.

Why not cite people like the president of the Haitian
Senate’s Human Rights Commission, who described a
massive December 22, 2006 UN military assault on Cité
Soleil as "a crime against humanity"?

Instead of helping to demonize the poorest of
Port-au-Prince’s neighborhoods, the Times should
provide balanced coverage.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address/Phone Number

2) To the Editor:
“U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti” (February 10)
ostensibly treats violence in Haiti’s Cité Soleil, but
of the article’s more than 1600 words, only 48 are
from Haitians in Haiti, none of whom share the
article’s positive impression of the U.N. raids.
The article fails to mention the frequent, large-scale
protests against the U.N., especially in Cité Soleil,
even though its top photo shows a MINUSTAH soldier
preparing to deploy teargas against a group of
protesters.
The Times piece mimics the UN’s lethal error of not
listening to the people of Cité Soleil. Haiti’s poor
bear the brunt of violent crime, and want it stopped,
but they understand that the raids are not working and
are killing innocent civilians. Until the UN hears
this message, their efforts will continue to fail.
Sincerely,
Your Name
Address/Phone Number


3) To the Editor,

The article “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti”
(February 10) implies that UN military attacks on Cité
Soleil were carried out at President René Préval’s
insistence.

In fact, as documented by reports from the University
of Miami and Harvard University Law School, UN
“peacekeepers” have engaged in joint operations with
the notoriously brutal Haitian police since the June,
2004 start of the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). And
long before Préval’s February 2006 election, UN
troops, at the urging of Haiti’s right-wing elite,
launched military attacks on Port-au-Prince’s poorest
neighborhoods which killed scores of unarmed
civilians.

Haiti’s dire problems, a direct result of over two
centuries of exploitation by the “international
community”, cannot be solved militarily. Jean-Bertrand
Aristide and his progressive, democratically-elected
Lavalas government understood this. It is to the
eternal discredit of the U.S. that the Bush
Administration backed the coup which ousted that
government on February 29, 2004.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address/Phone Number


+++
4)  To the Editor,

In “U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs in Haiti” (February
10), the commander of U.N. forces in Haiti declares
that “there will be no tolerance for the kidnappings,
harassment and terror carried out by criminal gangs.”
Although the U.N aggressively pursues gangs in poor
neighborhoods, it shows a high degree of tolerance for
crime organized in Haiti’s comfortable neighborhoods
or by the police.

Even Mario Andresol, Haiti’s police chief, concedes
that as many as 1/3 of his officers are involved in
kidnapping and other crime. Several members of wealthy
families have been implicated in kidnappings.

The UN should fight crime in Haiti, but with a
balanced approach, fighting crime wherever the
criminals are, not just in poor neighborhoods. The
Times should cover crime in Haiti the same way.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address/Phone Number



Haiti Action Committee
www.haitiaction.net     www.haitisolidarity.net
510-483-7481
haitiaction at yahoo.com


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