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Haiti Police Shut Down Radio Station

December 18, 2003

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Police stormed and shut down a pro-opposition radio station, smashing studio equipment in what they said was a search for weapons, witnesses said Thursday.

Police later displayed guns and grenades they said were found Wednesday on the roof of Radio Maxima in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. State-run television reported 11 people were arrested, including station employees.

The raid came as police shot and killed a teenage boy Wednesday during clashes with anti-government protesters in the northern town of Trou du Nord, independent Radio Metropole reported.

Demonstrators in Trou du Nord went on to torch several government buildings, including the telephone company and city hall, according to radio reports.

State-run television showed items that police said they seized, including two assault rifles, a pistol, grenades and camouflage fatigues.

Police spokeswoman Daphne Orlando, in the capital of Port-au-Prince, said she didn’t immediately have information about the raid.

Tensions between supporters and opponents of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are on the rise in Haiti. At least 22 people have died in protests since mid-September.

Radio Maxima’s owner, Jean-Robert Lalane, survived an assassination attempt by an unknown gunman on Nov. 25, and the station has been threatened repeatedly by government partisans for its calls on Aristide to step down.

Aristide has said he opposes violence and favors a free press. But Haitian media groups accuse police of regularly harassing journalists.

This year, the France-based group Reporters Without Borders placed Haiti 100th in its press freedom ranking of 166 countries. Some 30 Haitian journalists have gone into self-imposed exile in the past two years after receiving threats.

Haiti’s government and opposition have been locked in disagreement since flawed 2000 legislative elections that the opposition says were rigged.

Aristide’s opponents have stepped up protests in recent weeks, and the government accuses them of trying to spoil state-sponsored celebrations Jan. 1 on the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence from France.

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