Jean Mario Paul, a correspondent with Radio Antilles Internationale in Haiti, is the 1992 recipient of the Louis M. Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in journalism, the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University announced July 2, 1992.
The 25-member Nieman Fellow Class of 1992 selected Jean Mario Paul in recognition of the courage he has displayed in the face of government intimidation following the September 30, 1991 coup d’etat, and for the excellence of his reporting on local official corruption.
Since 1989 Jean Mario Paul, 25, filed news reports from PetitGoave, a town some 20 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, to Radio Antilles Internationale, a premier Haitian radio station which the government shut down after the coup. His political analysis and steadfast reporting on corruption also appeared in two newspapers: Petit-Goave Info and May Nan May. He was also a founder and leader of a local youth organization in Grand-Goave that actively opposed military authorities.
During the September 30th coup, Paul’s home and his mother’s residence were burned. That same evening six radio stations, including Radio Antilles Internationale, were made inoperative in raids by soldiers and citizens supporting the coup leaders. In an atmosphere of intimidation and threats, several other radio and television stations ceased broadcasting in the months that followed. Two journalists have been killed; others report receiving death threats, and the campaign of harassment has forced many journalists to practice self-censorship.
On November 9th, Jean Mario Paul was arrested and charged with arson in attacks on the police station and court house in Grand-Goave. He was taken into custody and removed to Port-au- Prince where reliable reports indicate that he was beaten severely enough to require hospitalization. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that Paul was held in the “toad” position, in which a victim’s neck is tied to his legs while he is beaten on the back and buttocks. After his release from the hospital, he was returned to Petit-Goave Prison on December 16th. Family members, in fear for their lives, have gone into hiding.
On April 29th, Jean Mario Paul was released from jail after a Haitian judge dismissed his case for lack of evidence. At the time of this news release, Paul has not resumed his writing, nor can his voice be heard on Radio Antilles Internationale since the station, like many others, remains closed. As with many other journalists, Paul’s ability to tell what has happened in Haiti has been curtailed by the government. As exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide said in April of the silencing of Paul:
“It is symbolic that he is in prison because in the same way the press in Haiti is still imprisoned. Radio gave people a way to express what they want and how they feel about democracy in Haiti. Now that ability to talk to each other is taken away.”