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17910: (Chamberlain) Attack on transmission center silences Haitian radios (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Amy Bracken

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Armed men attacked several
independent Haitian radio stations on Tuesday, smashed transmission systems
and forced them off the air, a guard and staff at the stations said.
     Staff at some of the affected stations blamed government supporters
for the attacks, however, there was no definitive information on the
identities of attackers or their motives. In the past supporters of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have threatened independent radio stations
and have harassed and attacked journalists.
     Government officials were not immediately available to comment.
     UHF and microwave equipment used by seven radio stations, one
television station and the communications system of a bank were destroyed
in the attack at the transmission center at La Boule, in the mountains
above Port-au-Prince.
     The guard, Bremar Vil, said that nine armed men drove up in a
four-wheel drive vehicle, tied him up and asked him where they could find
the transmitting machines for one independent radio station, Radio
     Vil said he told them he did not know and the men then smashed all the
equipment with batons.
     One radio station and the television station whose equipment was
damaged are government-affiliated but the other radio stations are all
independent. For some of the stations, the equipment at La Boule was the
only way of getting on air.
     Lilian Pierre-Paul, director of Radio Kiskaya, said she thought the
government was at fault because of its criticisms of the independent media.
The independent media have actively reported rising protests against
Aristide by opponents who accuse the president of mismanagement and
     "I was shocked because despite everything we never believed it would
come to this," said Anne Marie Issa, the director general of Signal FM, one
of the radio stations silenced.
     Issa said that like other independent radio stations, hers had
received threats. She was skeptical there would an official investigation
into the attack.
     Aristide is facing almost daily street protests by the opposition in a
three-year political stalemate sparked by a dispute over the results of
parliamentary elections in 2000.