In many developing countries, radio reaches the widest audience in Haiti. Estimates vary, but more than 300 radio stations are believed to broadcast throughout the country. Talk show programs serve as one of the few ways in which ordinary Haitians can speak out about politics and the government. A law passed in 1997 declares the airwaves to be the property of the government, but at least 133 unlicensed radio stations operate freely. In addition, there are 50 community-based stations throughout the country.
Television has experienced in the last 12 months, a dramatic expansion. In the metropolitan area, no fewer than 25 stations broadcasting on the airwaves. Tele Haiti, the oldest TV station, offers on its cable network offers many foreign channels.
Haiti’s three French-language newspapers have a total circulation of less than 20,000. Small, Creole-language newspapers are printed irregularly.
Brief History Of The Haitian Media
The media sector in Haiti has a long history and its situation today might be understood in the light of its progress through the years.
- 1724: Media existed for the first time in Haiti, with the newspaper of French journalist Joseph Payen who received an authorization from the King of France.
- 1764: Antoine Marie, a printer from France, founded in Cap-Haïtien the weekly publication: "Gazette de Saint-Domingue". The publication was forced to change locations to Port-au-Prince. lt had 1500 subscribers in 1788.
- The French Revolution in 1789 brought some freedom for the press, and other papers went into print. In 1802, fifty newspapers have been listed in Saint-Domingue.
- 1804: The « Gazette politique et commerciale d'Haïti», the first publication in the new independent country. This publication dropped out of circulation.
- 1806: When the Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines died on October 17, 1806. «Sentinelle d'Haïti» took the place. lts name will change several times but spreading the government ideology remained its main objective.
- From 1804 to 1949. Max Bissainthe has counted 885 newspapers some of which exist until today like Le Moniteur (1845), Le Nouvelliste (1898) and Le Matin (1907). The period before the American occupation was characterized by the breach and violation of ethic and professional rules. The successive government as its opponents seized the press sector to their profit.
- Between 1914 and 1934, during the American occupation, three laws were adopted to regulate the press sector. These laws restricted freedom of the press. The more outspoken journalists were put in jail, like Georges J. Petit, who went to prison seventeen times between 1915 and 1960. He wrote an article in Le Petit Impartial, along with Jacques Roumain who was also critical of the occupation and advocated that the youth take a stand.
- 1930: Emergence of the broadcasting media. Print media was almost completely abandoned. Broadcasting imposed itself as a real alternative in the country where nearly 85% people were illiterate. Several of today's well-known stations were created during this time period, such as Radio Haiti (1935) and Radio Caraïbes in Port-au-Prince (1949). The provinces, Radio Voix du Nord (1945), Radio Citadelle (1950) and Voix Évangélique in the North department and Radio Indépendance in Gonaïves/Artibonite (1953) emerged.
- 1957-1986. The coming of TV established the domination of audiovisual media. Télé Haiti, in 1959, became the first cable TV in the country. During the twenty-nine year Duvalier dictatorship, there is systematic violation of basic freedoms of the press; harassment, torture of journalists, censorship. Many journalists went into exile.
- In 1979, the government launched the Télévision Nationale d'Haïti (TNH) a TV real mass media. Unfortunately, since its creation TNH has remained an instrument of propaganda for the government.
- Since 1986, the press sector has experienced constant change. Indeed, several journalists have been imprisoned or killed for their ideology, their affinity for political groups or their objectivity.
- The hope for a free media vanished with the military coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The Haitian Media landscape
- In Haiti, three news agencies, two daily and two weekly newspapers published in the capital, Port-au-Prince, form the core of the written press. Other periodicals (political journals and varieties magazines) exist, but appear to be very irregular.
- Nearly 400 radio and TV stations broadcast on Haitian territory. Only half work legally, with a license of Conatel, the agency that regulates communications.
- Experts talk of a large territorial coverage by those 400 media, for a country of 10 million people and 27,750 sq km. However, the statistics for measuring the audience ratings and penetration are non-existent. In a country where the literacy rate is 53% and the standard of living low, we know that radio is the most popular medium.
- The majority of 400 radios and TVs are small independent businesses, mainly concentrated in big cities. They broadcast on FM. AM transmitters are too costly to operate.
- Public media, grouped in the consortium RTNH (Radio Télévision Nationale d’Haïti), despite the out datedness of their equipment, cover much of the territory.
- Haiti has thirty community radio stations, which are located in rural areas. They are managed by farmers' organizations. They diffuse news, educational programs on health, agriculture and environment.
- The religious stations are present in many localities. Excepted the stations of the Baptist network Radio Lumière, these Christian media are managed by local churches or dioceses.
- Unlike other countries in the region, there are no big press groups, with large financial resources in Haiti. However, a movement of grouping of stations begins with the constitution of two groups of media, from the two dailies in the country: Le Nouvelliste group and Le Nouveau Matin SA group, which manage each a daily journal, a weekly magazine (respectively, Ticket Magazine and Spotlight Magazine), one or two radio stations, and soon television channels.
- Another group, Caraïbes FM, consists of seven radio stations and two TV channels network. There is a trend for most important radio stations to have their own TV channel.
- Many stations of the capital work in network with radios of province, through the country. They broadcast especially news.
- All major Haitian media have their own websites, which distributes audio or written contents. These texts or audio signals are widely relayed by other media in the Haitian Diaspora. Three television channels are broadcast by the site JumpTV.com.