Voices of Port Au Prince

by Ansel Herz, Inter Press Service via Reclaim the Media Mon, 2010-01-25 14:32
Throughout the earthquake's aftermath, the voices of many Port-Au-Prince radio stations have been loud and clear.

Radio Solidarite 88.5 FM is one of the outlets to survive the tremors. It resumed broadcasts from its small studio, at the top of a two-storey building in the city's centre, once the staff found some gas for their generator just two days after the quake. "We have tried to say to the population to be strong, we appreciate their courage," said Radio Solidarite Director Georges Venel Remarais. "The international press was talking about violence but we didn't see any. The help is very slow at times, and people get angry. Our work is to say, let's be calm."

Gas to generate electricity is still difficult to find, but the Radio Solidarite staff are able to use their undamaged studio. Radio Metropole, one of Haiti's biggest stations, also began broadcasting as soon as the staff found gas. Other than hundreds of records scattered on the floor of its music room, the facility was not affected. Still, the staff don't feel safe broadcasting from inside their one-storey compound. "We put our studio outside," said Jerome Richard, a veteran reporter for the station, "and we let it be free to the population that can come and say anything they want to say and information about their lives they want to provide us. And to let them tell the whole world what's happening in Haiti."

The large staff of Radio Teleginen lost their three-storey building to the earthquake. The roof collapsed and one of its walls crumbled, leaving a gaping hole. Volunteers and journalists acting as rescue workers were unable to retrieve the body of a young cameraman – the station's only casualty. "We're helping radio Teleginen because we love Radio Teleginen, we love all its programming and it also serves us," said Edner Jean as he emerged from the building wearing a hard-hat. "We're doing our best to pull the person out. We're on our own. Since the disaster happened, nobody's come to help us."

A crane belonging to a Haitian construction company sits yards away from the rubble, across from people camped out in hundreds of tents. Jean Borge, the station's owner, says no one there knows how to operate it. But he's confident that they'll begin broadcasting within days. "We got a new generator, we're getting our satellite fixed and will be up and running as soon as possible," he said. "Our reporters already have started working, we'll have a small studio here."

In the heart of Cite Soleil, Radio Boukman is on the air. The station is named after the Voodoo priest who helped ignite Haiti's slave revolt. The remains of a police station are piled next to their building, but the station itself only lost some equipment that fell off the shelves. Authorities say they are concerned with security for aid distributions inside the oceanside shantytown. Edwin Adrien, a producer for the station, said nobody from the U.N. or United States contacted them to coordinate aid.

"I don't know until now why they don't contact any entity and especially Radio Boukman, broadcasting inside Cite Soleil," he said. "I don't know the reason but they didn't contact us yet. I think the information that we broadcasting are helping everybody including MINUSTAH and the population. We have to keep the population informed." A Canadian Union solidarity group holds a press conference at Radio Boukman.

Signal FM is reportedly the only Port-Au-Prince station to remain on the air throughout the earthquake itself. Mario Viau, the station's director, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the station's 12 staff journalists worked extended shifts to continue broadcasting. Underlining the importance of Haitian radio, the BBC announced Saturday it is making its broadcasts available for free, in Haiti's native Creole, for Haitian radio stations.

Port-Au-Prince suffered a 4.7 magnitude aftershock Sunday evening, but parts of the city are gaining some semblance of normality. The sound of creole songs, hip hop, and the latest news helps to ease the tension in the city's air.

article originally published at Inter Press Service.