Witnesses: Journalist killed after police in Haiti open fire

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A Haitian journalist died Sunday after being shot in the head when police opened fire on reporters demanding the release of one of their colleagues who was detained while covering a protest, witnesses told The Associated Press.

Reporters at the scene identified the slain journalist as Romelo Vilsaint and said he worked for an online news site. His body was lying face down inside the parking lot of a police station in Delmas in the capital of Port-au-Prince as colleagues surrounded it, crying out as they lifted their arms.

Richard Pierrin, a freelance photographer for Agence France-Presse, told the AP he saw police open fire and Vilsaint get hit.

Gary Desrosiers, a spokesman for Haiti’s National Police, confirmed to the AP that Vilsaint was fatally shot but declined further comment except to say it was a lamentable situation.

As journalists and citizens surrounded the police station after Vilsaint was killed, officers fired tear gas to disperse them.

Reporters at the scene said the journalist being held is Robest Dimanche, who works at local Radio Tele Zenith and was covering a protest when he was detained.

The Online Media Collective, a local journalists’ association, denounced Dimanche’s arrest, saying he was being treated like a “dangerous criminal” and said he was charged with disturbing public order. Dimanche also is a spokesman for the organization.

“Our spokesperson acted within the framework of the journalistic mission by covering a protest movement,” the organization said. “The detention ... is the latest signal, without doubt the most worrying, of a resurgence of attacks on freedom of information, and this journalist must be released.”

The organization also demanded that those responsible for the recent killing of radio journalist Garry Tess and the Oct. 25 attack on Roberson Alphonse, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste newspaper, be brought to justice.

On Wednesday, Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s largest newspaper, announced it was suspending publication of its print product given “serious security problems” that are hampering production and distribution.