Saturday, August 29, 2009

A response to Kim Ives

It is good that Haiti Liberté editor Kim Ives has not forgotten me since our spirited debate at Sander Hicks’ excellent Vox Pop bookstore in Brooklyn a few years back.

Ives, who used to edit the Brooklyn-based Haiti Progrès before departing amid
charges of financial irregularities and nepotism, appears not to have liked the criticism that I recently leveled at Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre. When the latter two wrote a recent article for the Inter Press Service seeking to deny the slaughter that the people of St. Marc had been subjected to at the hands of forces loyal to the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, they apparently did so without having ever bothered to interview a single survivor or relative of a victim of the violence, a practice that struck me as rather curious. Incidentally, some good reporting from St. Marc at the time was written by Marika Lynch for the Miami Herald and can be read here.

When the story also consisted of points and passages regurgitated nearly wholly from the writings and positions of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), bodies linked at the hip with grotesquely (given Haiti’s poverty) overpaid advocates for the Aristide government, and an organization that Wadner Pierre is identified in various places as having worked for, it only seemed natural to point that out, as it would were a journalist working for USAID, for example, to simultaneously spit out State Department talking points in print. Though I know Kim Ives has never allowed the facts to get in the way of his own attempts at journalism, for me, at least, individuals advocating their full-throated support for any political current then attempting to pass themselves off as objective journalists, investigating and allowing the facts to fall where they may, is problematic. When his connections with the IJDH/BAI were exposed, Wadner Pierre would later whine that he was being "censored."

Likewise, the unsolicited email photo of blood-spattered corpses sent to me by Jeb Sprague, an individual with a long history of harassing people and making up wild, outlandish claims that are then proven false (such as his attacks against the UK-based Haiti Support Group) did strike me as an attempt to intimidate me into silence, one which didn’t work. The full text of Sprague’s email to me can be read as part of a broader
discussion of press coverage of Haiti on my blog.

The attacks that Kim Ives repeats against me from academics like Peter Hallward and Justin Podur, andCenter for Economic and Policy Research co-director Mark Weisbrot, men ignorant of Haiti and its people and with only the most glancing knowledge of even the recent political history that they seek to fit into their unsophisticated binary worldview, were mostly responded to at the time, here, here and here. Likewise were the statements of Patrick Elie, a convicted perjurer with a long history of violent, erratic behaviour who somehow recently begged his way onto a presidential security commission, referred to by Ives as quoted by Justin Podur, a man one is to believe is so clueless about Haiti that while libeling me he confuses the Eglise Saint Pierre in Petionville with the National Cathedral, several miles away.

As to Amnesty International’s recent declaration regarding Ronald Dauphin, in my experience reporting from conflict areas around the globe, local groups such as RNDDH are almost always more reliable in their estimations and characterizations of violence than Amnesty International, which, unlike Human Rights Watch, does precious little on-the-ground research from conflict zones these days and instead is essentially run by bureaucrats filtering through press accounts and the emails they are flooded with by various advocacy groups.

Amnesty International has done almost no original research in Haiti since 2004. RNDDH, on the other hand, with its extensive research network in Haiti and defense of those regardless of political affiliation, seems to me to fit well into the proud tradition of such groups as the Centro para Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos in Guatemala, the Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains in Cote d’Ivoire and the Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Whenever one goes and actually interviews the victims of human rights violations, as I did in
St. Marc this summer, in Port-au-Prince in 2006, in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in Indian-controlled Kashmir, there will always be those who, speaking for one political current or another with their hands soaked in blood, will seek to cast doubt on the validity or the worth of that suffering. But if verbal and written attacks are the price one must pay to draw attention to the suffering of people like Amazil Jean-Baptiste and the other survivors of political violence worldwide, it is a tax so relatively minor as to hardly merit mention.

Happy Ramadan from the banlieues,


1 comment:

Michael Deibert said...

Note: This post prompted a profanity-laced anonymous "comment" from IP address 72.225.217 in Brooklyn, NY. Hmmm....