‘Unwilling to Stop’: What it Takes to Be a Local Reporter in Haiti

No electricity. No legislature. No security. Conditions in Haiti make it difficult to live, let alone work. Here’s how GPJ reporters do it.

Read this story in

For years, headlines have blared that Haiti is “on the brink” or “near collapse.” But when does a country reach the point of collapse?

Is it when elections are postponed indefinitely? When the president is assassinated? Or is it when armed groups overtake the capital? Or when foreign countries evacuate their diplomatic staff?

All of these have happened in Haiti, and many Haitians feel their country has collapsed. In 2023, armed groups murdered nearly 5,000 people and kidnapped 2,490 more. According to the International Organization for Migration, violence has forced some 362,000 people, mostly in the capital, to flee their homes.

expand image
expand slideshow

Graphics by Matt Haney, GPJ

Centuries of foreign intervention and decades of dependence on aid, along with devastating earthquakes and hurricanes, have put Haiti squarely on the list of fragile states, according to the 2023 Fragile States Index, which ranks Haiti 10th, between Chad and Ethiopia, with a score of 102.9 out of 120.

For five Global Press Journal reporters, covering their country has never been more difficult.

Reporters Without Borders, in its 2023 report, ranked Haiti 99 among 180 countries for press freedom, 29 spots lower than in the previous year. The report notes that journalists in Haiti suffer from “a cruel lack of financial resources, an absence of institutional support and difficulty accessing information.”

Years of political instability have wrought havoc on the country’s infrastructure, and poor communication networks, transport and health services have created increasingly difficult working conditions for journalists. But Global Press Journal reporters across the country push forward.

Here, they describe their challenges as they cover a country with an uncertain future.

expand image
expand slideshow

Where Gangs Rule

By Anne Myriam Bolivar

Working as a journalist in Port-au-Prince means being ready for anything.

I’m always ready to move. I have a suitcase packed with my most important items and a bag with my laptop, camera, notebook and pens.

I know firsthand the risks of reporting here. I survived an attempted kidnapping in 2021.

Today, at least 23 armed groups operate in the metropolitan area where I live. The threat of kidnapping or being hit by stray bullets looms, and gang violence devastates our communities. According to the IOM, 94,821 people left the capital for the provinces between March and April of this year.

In 2022, I was part of a group of reporters who went on assignments together, to watch each other’s backs. But today, we can’t even do that. Many journalists have left, and for the last six months, the power supply has been disrupted and internet networks are unstable, making our work harder than ever.

But I am unwilling to stop telling stories.

Safety is, of course, my main concern. I must constantly assess the risks of violence, physical attack and kidnapping while out in the field. I’ve learned to sharply observe my surroundings. Before I head out, I scroll through journalist WhatsApp groups and listen to the radio to find out which roads are safest. It changes every day. I develop strategic safety plans, once reserved for big stories, every single day.

I long for the day when things return to normal in Port-au-Prince, a city I love and a city that was once full of life — car horns echoing, the melee of public transport and mazes of students boarding buses to get to school.

Every May, there used to be a big gastronomic fair, where exhibitors displayed delicacies, giving a taste of Haiti’s rich mosaic of cultures. Commerce and creativity flourished; public squares like Champ de Mars, at the heart of the capital, were popular spots for cultural and religious events. As a football fan, I enjoyed going to watch the local championship at the Sylvio Cator Stadium.

But in a city where gangs rule, all of that has been snuffed out, too.

An earthquake near Port-au-Prince kills over 300,000 people and displaces 1.3 million. Eighty percent of Haiti’s schools, more than half of its hospitals and 60% of government and business offices are destroyed or damaged.

As legislators’ terms end, the legislature empties due to repeatedly postponed elections. President Michel Martelly rules by decree.

Jovenel Moïse, a banana exporter, is elected president in a runoff election. Voter turnout is 17%, dropping from 55% in 2006 and marking the lowest turnout since Haiti’s first free and fair election in 1990.

The Senate reveals a $2 billion corruption scheme known as PetroCaribe, implicating high-level politicians going back to 2008 and sparking widespread protests.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti leaves with a tarnished legacy after 13 years of operations.

The legislature again empties due to canceled elections. President Moïse rules by decree. About 400 unelected mayors remain in office at the president’s discretion.

Foreign mercenaries assassinate President Moïse on the night of July 7. During a power struggle, Ariel Henry assumes leadership as prime minister, with support from the United States.

By September, armed groups control much of the capital. They control access to hospitals and even blockade fuel trucks at a main port, worsening the country’s fuel shortage as they demand Henry’s resignation. Over 170,000 flee their homes.

Most gangs in the capital converge into two coalitions: G9 Family and Allies, led by Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier; and G-Pèp, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre.

Violence explodes as murders more than double, reaching 4,789, and kidnappings jump 83% to 2,490. The armed groups take control of 80% of the capital and other urban areas, along with the agricultural region of Artibonite and major highways across the country.

In October, the UN Security Council approves a multinational force, led by Kenya, to provide security for critical infrastructure, training and operational support for the Haitian National Police.

In March, armed groups seize the capital’s main port and loot humanitarian aid meant for women and children.

Prime Minister Henry resigns. A nine-member transitional council is tasked with appointing an interim prime minister and organizing long-delayed elections.

More than 362,000 people leave their homes, mostly in Port-au-Prince, and over half of the country’s hospitals are nonfunctional.

expand image
expand slideshow


By Rose Hurguelle Point du jour

In Maniche, where I live, we’re far from the chaos of Port-au-Prince, but every aspect of the crisis still reaches us.

On Aug. 14, 2021, an earthquake destroyed most of Maniche. Essential services have yet to be restored.

We once had electricity 24 hours a day. Today, we have none at all — and we haven’t for three years.

I pay to use generators to charge the tools I need: my phone, laptop and camera. But that’s not the hardest part. Without the internet, I cannot work. And the internet rarely works here.

I have subscriptions to two network providers, Digicel and Natcom, but often, both go down at the same time, rendering me paralyzed and unable to file stories and photos.

expand image
expand slideshow

Rose Hurguelle Point du Jour, GPJ Haiti

The sun sets over Cavaillon River in Maniche, Haiti. Although far from the capital, the commune hasn’t been spared from the effects of the chaos in Port-au-Prince.

Starlink internet is available, but the cost is high and you need electricity to run it. On average, it costs me 2,820 Haitian gourdes, or about 21 United States dollars, a month to access a wobbly connection. A 2023 government survey of 83 households in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city, puts the average household’s income at about 34,888 gourdes (262 dollars) a month, making the internet a privilege to few. Data from the International Telecommunication Union in 2019 showed that less than 40% of households had access.

The search for the internet often creates great risks. Sometimes, I take a motorcycle taxi for 500 gourdes, about 4 dollars, to Les Cayes, a town about 23 kilometers (14 miles) away. There, I can connect to the internet using a friend’s Starlink system. But getting there is no easy task.

On a recent trip, I crossed at least seven blockades, made from a jumble of almost anything: car parts, iron fences, branches, boulders. Gang members, armed with machetes, man these barriers and block movement along the only road linking Maniche to Les Cayes. Sometimes, they hammer nails into wooden boards and cover them in straw to flatten tires. I had to beg and pay for them to allow me through. When I got to Les Cayes and reached my editor, she was happy to hear from me but told me never to put myself in danger again. At Global Press, my safety comes first. To keep myself going, I focus on my job, my sources and my stories, and I meditate and pray. But how can I promise I’ll never be in that situation again?

expand image
expand slideshow

In the Dark

By Jusly Felix

The name of my town, Port-de-Paix, means “Port of Peace.” The town, in the northwest of Haiti, has largely lived up to its name, but even here, life can be unpredictable.

Like many other journalists, my work is tied to electronic devices, yet I have been living without electricity for over two years. I remember having about 10 hours of electricity per day in Port-de-Paix when I was a child. Today, there is little or none. And accessing it is never straightforward.

Électricité d’Haïti, the country’s state electrical utility, operates in most cities, including Port-de-Paix, but the political crisis has made it difficult to supply power. Less than half of Haiti’s population has access to electricity, according to 2021 World Bank estimates. Gangs have taken to attacking power stations in the capital, leaving towns like Port-de-Paix, which depend on the capital for electricity, in the dark.

expand image
expand slideshow

Rose Hurguelle Point du jour, GPJ Haiti

Residents buy goods under streetlights in Maniche, Haiti. The Maniche Youth Union for Development set up the lights to address a lack of electricity after an earthquake in August 2021.

To light their homes, most people use rechargeable lights. Others opt for kerosene gas lamps. Other electricity sources come at a higher price. Buying a generator, whose cost varies between 300 dollars to 1,000 dollars or more, is one option, but the price of fuel makes it difficult or impossible to power it. Private companies now sell power by the hour.

Like all Haitian reporters who have chosen to stay, I rely on collaboration with my colleagues. Every day, I visit a local radio station about 10 minutes from my home. They let me recharge my devices.

Compared to many of my colleagues, I am fortunate that I don’t have to deal with daily violence. But the violence of the country still finds its way here.

expand image
expand slideshow

When Sources Leave

By Verlande Cadet

I love telling stories about my community in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city, and I go beyond breaking news to show the deeper consequences of events. When the United States announced the Humanitarian Parole Program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, which allows up to 30,000 qualified people a month to move to the United States, I didn’t cover the breaking story. Instead, I focused on the stories of mothers raising children on their own after their husbands left under the program. As I reported that story, I noticed a new challenge in my work: Sources began leaving the country in droves.

I’ve had to say goodbye to many friends and family members who have left under the same program. We never know when we will see each other again. At Global Press, we prioritize local sources, wanting the stories of Haiti to be told with Haitian voices. But that task is tougher as communities empty out.

Key government sources are based in Port-au-Prince, but with the capital overrun by gangs, they can be impossible to reach. There are departmental offices for all ministries outside the capital. There is one in Cap-Haïtien, but activity has lulled since the fall of the government. Some employees come to work; others don’t. They’ve told me that they’re demoralized: When they go to work, they can’t find anything to do.

expand image
expand slideshow


By Wyddiane Prophète

There are few reporters in Port-Margot, where I live. I pride myself on telling stories of the richness, diversity and complexity of this place, which receives little national or international attention.

I get around either on foot or by motorcycle, but during the rainy season, our infrastructure fails us as roads become muddy, flooded and often impassable. Often, I wade across rivers to get from one place to another. If the rivers overflow, I’m stuck.

While I do most of my reporting here, I often commute by bus to Cap-Haïtien, the capital of the department, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, to file my stories and access the internet. The roads are bumpy, and when there are demonstrations in Cap-Haïtien, they’re usually barricaded. Other times, my stories can’t move because the buses don’t run. A few months ago, I went to Cap-Haïtien to file a story and ended up stranded there for several weeks as demonstrations forced road closures.

expand image
expand slideshow

Anne Myriam Bolivar, GPJ Haiti

Commuters from the southern district of Martissant use a treacherous road to reach Port-au-Prince. Insecurity has worsened in the Martissant area, where armed gangs occupy sections of National Route 2, a major highway that links four of the country’s provinces.

It is hard to be here right now among so much death and violence and struggle. What keeps me going, besides my faith and my family, is hope.

In the meantime, writing is my only weapon. I use it to fight and survive. It’s easy to feel powerless here, as I watch the country I love crumbling before my eyes. And so, as a journalist, I do what I can with what I have. I will continue to show the world how resilient and brave the Haitian people are.

Related Stories