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Strike-Bound Radio Station Off Air After News Editor Threatened by Gunmen

July 1, 1989

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Radio Soleil, Haiti’s most popular station, went off the air Saturday after the news editor said he was threatened by gunmen and fired along with five other employees in the midst of a strike.

Venel Ramarais, news chief at the Roman Catholic Church-run station, said two gunmen stopped him in front of the station’s gate Saturday morning, waved a pistol in his face and threatened to kill him.

Ramarais said the station’s management was ″indifferent″ when he told officials of the confrontation.

He said he and five other employees were fired two hours later when management decided to clamp down on the strike and stop broadcasting.

The station has encouraged the poor to fight social injustice. But since April, Haiti’s conservative Bishop’s Conference has fired a total of 10 of the station’s 42 employees. It appointed the Rev. Arnaud Chery as station director in an apparent move to check the influence of radical priests and employees.

″For about three months the new heads of the station have been running it with an antagonistic spirit,″ which led the staff to strike, the employees said in a release this week.

Chery could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Ramarais said he did not notify police of the confrontation. In Haiti police rarely respond to citizens’ complaints; they could not be reached for comment.

During the last months of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s rule in 1986 Radio Soleil was the only station broadcasting news. Duvalier fled to exile in France in February 1986.

A group of 60 parish priests said in a release Thursday that they will celebrate Mass together Sunday and stage a procession in a show of support for the strikers.

Update hourly