"Unreported Wold: Haiti" -a nasty piece of embedded journalism
The truly heroic struggle of the people of Haiti – first against their slavery which their revolution abolished in 1804, decades before abolition in other countries; then against a “debt” imposed by France for its loss of property after the slaves drove Napoleon’s army out; and then against a series of dictatorships and military occupations – has been hidden or lied about in the most spectacular and racist way.
Your programme, “Unreported World: Haiti”, was another example, a piece of US-UN propaganda. It is disinformation like this which has been used to justify the 2004 US-led coup against the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
- While mentioning that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, there was not a hint of the US military invasions and Western-backed dictatorships (the most notorious was that of Duvalier and his son Baby Doc) which have caused such poverty, making a way for sweatshops and anti-union policing.
- There was no mention of the 2004 US invasion, which led to the present-day occupation by UN troops.
- No mention of President Aristide’s anti-poverty policies which made him so well-loved and supported by the great majority of the population. Yet it is because Cité Soleil has been a working class stronghold of support for Aristide that it is so brutality targeted first by the US, then by the UN.
- You interviewed the owner of a sweatshop that was forced to close but said nothing of wages and working conditions there, the fact that Aristide had tripled wages, funded schools and hospitals, and was hated by the Haitian elite which runs such sweatshops.
- There was no mention of the convicted drug dealers and torturers the US had armed to defeat the popular movement which voted Aristide into power, resist the coup and still demand his return.
- No history of how the “gangs” came into existence and who has armed them.
- No mention of the record of repression of the Brazilian military (which make up the majority of the present UN force in Haiti) in Brazil’s own favelas.
- No mention of the dissident Brazilian general who previously headed the UN troops in Haiti and was either killed or committed suicide because he disagreed with the murderous policies he was asked to implement there.
- You did not say that the UN has been accused of killing thousands of people in Cité Soleil and elsewhere. You reported that while you were there the UN was shooting in a densely populated area at night and that two little girls were shot dead. You described their injuries. You interviewed their father who said the UN had shot them. You filmed the protest against this killing of Cité Soleil residents, many of them women and children, who marched to the UN headquarters in protest. You showed the demonstrators being shot at indiscriminately by the UN. Your own team was shot at by the UN and your cameraman was hit. Yet the UN was not held responsible for the escalating violence in Cité Soleil, the “gangs” were. This is like saying that there was a violent conflict in Iraq without mentioning the US-UK occupation.
- In Rwanda the UN stood by while nearly a million people were slaughtered to death. In Bosnia and elsewhere they were told they could only use arms in self-defence. But in Haiti they have been told by the US, which has been in charge there since their marines invaded, to “clear” Cité Soleil and other strongholds of resistance. Your programme said nothing about this unusually aggressive UN intervention.
- You ended the programme by claiming that the UN had displaced some “gangs” and set up food distribution and health clinics. Had your reporter looked rather than taken the UN’s word for it, you would have seen that such distribution centres are nothing but a temporary smokescreen (lasting no more than a day) for the much more permanent repression.
- Your reporter dramatised herself by appearing to be at the heart of the action, moving with the UN troops. This is the same kind of embedded reporting we have seen of the Iraq war – an advertisement for murderous US policies. Journalism such as this shares much of the blame for the WMD and other lies which helped make way for the ’shock and awe’ invasion of Iraq.
- If the gangs of Cité Soleil have such disregard for people’s lives, one wonders why President Chávez of Venezuela was welcomed with such warmth, especially by the inhabitants of Cité Soleil, when he visited recently. Unlike the UN, he was not in an armoured vehicle and he brought much needed resources, not guns.
The Global Women’s Strike (GWS) and Women of Colour in the GWS have been working with Haitian women, children and men who have been opposing the US coup and the UN occupation, both in Haiti and elsewhere. We have supported schools that grassroots women have organised to educate and feed children in their devastated communities, worked for CARICOM and Venezuela not to recognise the dictatorship imposed by the US in 2004, organised speaking tours for grassroots women and men to address audiences in the US... This year for the first time women in Haiti held an event as part of GWS actions for 8 March, International Women’s Day.
As the widow and colleague of CLR James – whose acknowledged masterpiece The Black Jacobins describes the extraordinary achievements of the Haitian revolution which celebrated its 200th anniversary shortly before the coup – I was particularly offended by your report. It was based on ignorant and careless reporting, misrepresented the facts, was obeisant to the occupying force, and lacked respect and understanding for the people who have been paying with their lives for their determined resistance to the occupation. We protest this nasty piece of embedded journalism demeaning the struggle of a heroic people.
Selma James, on behalf of the Global Women’s Strike
Write in protest to Channel 4 via their website at (a long address):
There may also be another more specific address screened after the programme, for example inviting comments on a message board, so look out for it and post your comments there too.
Or you can phone Channel 4 at 08450 76 0191.
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