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Witnesses: Journalist killed after police in Haiti open fire


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A Haitian journalist died on Sunday after being shot in the head when police opened fire on reporters demanding the release of a colleague who was arrested while covering a protest, witnesses told The Associated Press.

Journalists at the scene identified the slain journalist as Romelo Vilsaint and said he worked for an online news site. His body lay face down in the parking lot of a police station in Delmas, in the capital Port-au-Prince, as colleagues surrounded him, screaming and raising their arms.

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

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

As journalists and citizens surrounded the police station following Vilsaint’s death, officers fired tear gas to disperse them.

Journalists at the scene said the detained journalist is Robest Dimanche, who works at local radio station Tele Zenith and was covering a protest when he was arrested.

The Online Media Collective, a local association of journalists, denounced Dimanche’s arrest, saying he was being treated as a “dangerous criminal” and said he was charged with disturbing public order. Sunday is also a spokesperson 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, and arguably most worrying, signal of an upsurge in freedom of information abuses, and this journalist must be freed.”

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

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

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