Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

Then and Now: Haitian Journalism as Resistance to Us Occupation and Us-Led Reconstruction

Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

Then and Now: Haitian Journalism as Resistance to Us Occupation and Us-Led Reconstruction

Article excerpt

In August 1915, Haitian journalist Elie Guérin launched the anti- US occupation newspaper Haïti-Intégrale in response to the US State Department's installation of Haitian senator Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave as Haitian head of state in July.1 Before launching his paper, Guérin wrote a letter that was published in the conservative Haitian newspaper Le Matin in an article titled "Le Prochain ecroulement d'un dogme" (The next collapse of a doctrine). Guérin told readers:

La doctrine Monroe, le masque de l'impérialisme yankee . . . [qui] n'en est pas à attendre longtemps de s'abîmer . . . devant le grand barrage érigé des peuples consciencieux. . . . Pour nous Haïtiens . . . nous devons nous évertuer, avec courage, à souffrir de plus en plus matériellement quelques mois encore, c'est à dire jusqu'à la fin de la guerre européenne . . . alors . . . nous saurons bien attendre, calmes et fiers, quand même les souffrances, l'heure, pour nous, libératrice, de prochain écroulement du dogme de Monroe.

(The Monroe Doctrine, the Yankee imperialist's mask . . . no doubt will deteriorate before long . . . in front of a big blockade erected by conscious people. . . . For us Haitians . . . we must strive, with courage, to still suffer physically more and more, that is to say until the end of the European War. . . . In that case, we ought to be patient, calm and proud, while all the same enduring suffering, as the hour for our liberation is the coming collapse of the Monroe doctrine.)2

Haitian media historian Jean Desquiron wrote that this was one of the earliest previews of the antioccupation journalism pioneered by Guérin, "qui sera le premier en date parmi les héros du journalisme haïtien durant l'Occupation" (who was the first among the heroes of Haitian journalism during the Occupation).3 The US occupation of Haiti is as much a story of resistance through journalism as it is the story of civil society's resistance to the occupation. When other institutions had failed the Haitian people, Haiti's media had not. As a result, Haitian journalists were jailed, censored, and forced into exile for their challenge of the US occupation. Haitian news organizations published scathing editorials, provided intelligence to resistance leader Charlemagne Péralte, and spread the news of civil society's opposition to the occupation.4

In 2015, five years into Haiti's recovery from the 2010 earthquake, a similar brand of journalism as resistance has emerged in Haiti. This time, Haiti's media opposes the US domination of Haiti's reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake. A common thread exists across those one hundred years. When threats to Haitian sovereignty arise, Haitian journalism unifies, solidifies, and acts as a placeholder institution for civil society until civil awakening brings about change. This was the role Haiti's media played in 1915 and this is the role Haiti's media is currently playing in 2015 as it faces a new form of imperialism, one that is far less overt than intervention by marines but is proving to be more enduring than the nineteen-year occupation.5 The current intervention by way of international aid, like that of 1915, was a gradual and slow incursion into Haiti's economy and politics. The weakening of Haitian sovereignty under US-led international aid has undermined Haiti's political institutions and rendered the economy a client to development projects. To date, Haiti has the highest number of nongovernmental agencies per capita in the world, with foreign NGOs conducting Haiti's reconstruction independently of the Haitian government.6

As of 2015, the Haitian government receives less than 10 percent of the international aid set aside to sustainably rebuild Haiti, and over 90 percent of the NGOs receiving foreign aid for projects in Haiti are nonHaitian entities who do not coordinate with Haitian government ministries or need to answer to the Haitian government or its people.7 The current intervention by aid has the potential to be a far longer exercise of foreign control over Haiti's politics and economy than the nineteen years in which US marines undermined Haiti's sovereignty. …

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