More than a year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti killing over 250,000 people and paralyzing its communications and information infrastructure, reconstruction of the country is slowly gaining momentum.
Ary Regis, president of the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) Caribbean Region and based in Haiti, reports that communication in general has been re-established and local media have resumed operations.
However, he cautioned that re-construction of community media has been slow and hampered by a myriad challenges. “Community radio stations are very fragile right now. In certain cases they have been wiped out by commercial media which have more resources and better means of recovery,” he said.
According to Regis, the situation has been exacerbated by the country’s fragile economy, political and social unrest. “There are fewer volunteers working in community radio stations because of the bad economy”.
These and other challenges are hindering local communities from voicing their needs, said Regis in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince.
Soon after the earthquake, WACC launched an appeal to raise funds to rebuild community media in the country. Nearly $60,000 was raised through donations from WACC members and friends.
The donations have been used to re-construct and re-equip three community media networks run by WACC partners: Rezo Fanm Radyo Kominote Ayisyen (REFRAKA), Medialternatif Group/&Alterpresse and Social Animation and Communication Society (SAKS).
Marie Guyrleine Justin, Coordinator of REFRAKA, was grateful to WACC for re-equipping and reconstructing the station. “Thanks to the financial and technical support by WACC, a lot of the work spaces have been re-equipped and re-vamped.” The radio station is now operating from a new studio, she said, adding that the network has also conducted radio production training workshops for young people.
However, Justin laments that most of the community radio stations in the country are isolated and far from the cities and that there are hardly any women radio presenters. “The majority of women don’t have access and are not trained”, she noted.
Gotson Pierre, executive director of Alterpresse said that operations at Medialternatif Group&Alterpresse had resumed since acquiring new equipment. “We have been temporarily renting space in Pétionville but we will relocate to our own premises in April this year.” The network has produced seven videos since May 2010.
Pierre observed that full recovery of the network’s operations still has a long way to go. “Although we are carrying out training, the re-construction has been delayed by other social problems such as re-building the education system and unemployment.”
He emphasized that community media are crucial as they are independent spaces where people can freely express and experience their human and social rights.
“Community media represent the link between the people and the state. It is a space to ask questions and to reflect. It is the sole reference point for local communities, a source of information and knowledge”, he said.
WACC General Secretary the Rev. Karin Achtelstetter, affirmed WACC’s ongoing commitment and concern for the members and partner organizations that have worked in Haiti for many years. She thanked members and friends who supported the Haiti re-construction fund.
“This is an expression of the global solidarity of our network,” said Achtelstetter.