Tuesday, July 3, 2012


(Montreal Gazette) - By Sue Montgomery

Nobody injured in blaze at station popular with city's Haitian community

MONTREAL - A Montreal radio station that pulls no punches when criticizing the Haitian government was back in business Monday, hours after being damaged by what Montreal police are treating as a suspicious fire.

CPAM 1610 – a hugely popular radio station with Montreal’s 115,000-strong Haitian population – set up a temporary studio and was back on the air by 2 p.m., director and owner Jean-Ernest Pierre said.

Pierre, who is also a lawyer, was unfazed when reached by telephone after severe water and fire damage rendered the station in St. Michel unusable.

“For you this is news, but we are threatened all the time,” he said, adding this is the first time in the station’s 10-year history that a threat has actually been carried out. “In Haiti, they kill journalists.”

Pierre said the station has been very critical of Haiti’s most recent president, Michel Martelly, saying he wasn’t experienced enough to lead a country still struggling with the devastation of the January, 2010 earthquake.

CPAM also said the regime wasn’t being tough enough on former dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, who returned to the country last year after years in exile in France.

Many Haitians and human rights groups are outraged that Duvalier, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1971 to 1986, wouldn’t be tried for grave human-rights abuses he and his brutal Tonton Macoutes are alleged to have committed. A judge ruled he would be tried for the lesser charge of corruption, although Duvalier’s lawyer is appealing the ruling.

Duvalier, who is alleged to have embezzled between $300 million and $800 million during his rule, is supposed to be under house arrest, but moves freely around the country.

A spokesperson for the Montreal fire department, Claude Deschuymer, said the front window of CPAM 1610’s studio was smashed and a fire lit near the broken glass at about 4 a.m. Monday. Another fire was started at the back of the second floor where the station’s office is located, he said.

No one was in the building, located at the corner of Crémazie Blvd. and Musset Ave., at the time of the fire, he said.

Molotov cocktails could have been the cause of the fire since broken glass was found in both spots where the blaze began, he added.

“So we’re not taking any chances and turned the investigation over to the Montreal police,” he said.

Pierre said the station should be back to normal by Thursday, but wouldn’t be adding any extra security.

“We have surveillance cameras and will look at the footage,” he said.

The station’s analysis of the government – both positive and critical – will continue, he said.

“We never miss a chance to criticize it,” he said. “We need to educate people.”

No comments: