will the New York Times follow suit?

It’s now official; add another tale of government dollars undermining journalistic integrity in 2005. Anthony Fenton and Dennis Bernstein of Flashpoints Radio broke this story last Tuesday; AP confirms:

AP Ends Relationship With Haiti Freelancer

The Associated Press has terminated its relationship with a freelance reporter in Haiti after learning she was working for a U.S. government-sponsored organization.

The National Endowment for Democracy confirmed Regine Alexandre began working for the organization in October as a “part-time facilitator” between the NED and Haitian groups. <snip>

“AP employees must avoid any behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest or compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately,” said Mike Silverman, the news agency’s managing editor.

Alexandre, who freelances for other news organizations, reported only one story for the AP – on the Dec. 24 killing of a U.N. peacekeeper in Haiti – after beginning her association with the NED. She first began reporting for the AP in 2004. <snip>

When told later that the NED confirmed her employment, she continued to maintain she did not work for the organization.

The NED said it was unaware when it hired Alexandre that she worked for the AP or any other media organization.


Fenton & Bernstein, in Denial in Haiti: AP reporter RéGINE ALEXANDRE is wearing two hats, ask:

Has the Associated Press and the New York Times gone to bed with the National Endowment for Democracy?


Régine Alexandre, whose name appears as an AP by-line at least a dozen times starting in May of 2004, and appears as a contributor to two NY Times stories, is a part of an NED “experiment” to place a representative on the ground in countries where the NED has funded groups.

“This is almost like an experiment for us,” said Fabiola Cordova, a Haiti program officer with the NED in Washington D.C. on December 6th. “The NED usually doesn’t have a field presence and most of the work from our side takes place here in D.C. Then once the grants are approved it’s really very much on the grantees’ leadership and initiative to ‘implement their programs.’

Cordova said the NED tries to monitor the programs from DC and to provide some financial oversight, but “a lot of the organizations in Haiti really need a lot of hand-holding, so we hired this person to be part-time NED staff on the ground, and she’s helped us, well, both identify new grantees and to respond to any specific questions they’re going to have on the ground.”

Cordova said the relationship between NED and Alexandre has worked out well. “I think it has been very helpful, and over time as they get more used to having her there, they will use her more effectively too. It works out well for us,” said the NED program officer, “because we don’t need a full time person. Like I said, it’s an experiment, NED has never had like a field presence like this before, but we really wanted to expand our Haiti program so we thought it was really necessary to do this.”

Cordova said that Alexandre “was already in Haiti doing some other freelance work” and the NED hired her part time where she “works as a consultant.” As a follow up, NED’s Haiti program officer forwarded in a December 6, 2005 eMail the direct contacts for Regine Alexandre including her phone and eMail address. “Nice talking to you today,” wrote Cordova, “As promised, attached is the information on our Haiti grantees, and the contact information on our part-time field rep in Haiti. Her name is Regine Alexandre. I will drop her an e-mail and to let her know you might be in touch.”

In recent years, NED funding for Haiti has skyrocketed from $0 in 2003, before the forced departure of elected President John Bertrand Aristide, to $149,300 in 2004 to its current level of $541,045 in 2005 (8 grantees). NED spending in Haiti is at its highest level since 1990, the year Aristide was first elected.

Alexandre denies working for the NED, but said she has met with several NED grantees and was considering working for NED but then decided not to. “All I can tell you,” she said in a phone interview from Port-au-Prince on December 27th, “I met with NED, I was going to work for them, and I didn’t know much about NED and I decided not to work for them. I remember meeting with two, maybe three of the grantees and that’s it, but I do not work for NED.”

Alexandre’s denial includes this laugher:

Alexandre, who is also a development consultant in Haiti, says that at the request of NED she did meet briefly with some Haitian non-government organizations to provide them with contact information for NED, and was reimbursed by NED for travel expenses. She says she was unaware that NED had any U.S. government links.

Part of her work in Haiti has included ‘training’ journalists:

“The NED was created in the highest echelons of the US national security state,” writes William Robinson in Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention and Hegemony.

“It is organically integrated into the overall execution of US national security and foreign policy. In structure, organization, and operation, it is closer to clandestine and national security organs such as the CIA than to apolitical or humanitarian endowments, as the name would suggest.”

Other groups that have worked with Alexandre include RANCODHA, a Haiti-based group, also working around the elections. RANCODHA was the recipient of a $41,220 grant from the NED, according to documents obtained from the NED. Gadin Jean-Pierre, a spokesperson for the group, said in an interview from Haiti on December 27th that Alexandre has been in regular touch with the group, as a representative of the NED. “She’s keeping in touch with us, and we keep her informed about our activities that we are doing now with the project. I have had a meeting with her already, and she keeps in touch with us.”

In a second interview, Jean-Pierre again confirmed Alexandre’s work for the NED. “NED is the organization funding our program…We get funding from NED and we are working in close collaboration with Regine Alexandre. She will meet tomorrow with us, at 9:00; we have the evaluation of the program of the last module we have done. She will be with us tomorrow (Thursday,December 29th).”

Hans Tippenhauer, director of Fondation Espoir (Hope Foundation), the recipient of a $132,970 NED grant, also confirmed that Regine Alexandre was working for the NED, and acted as a “contact officer” between his organization and NED. In an interview from Haiti Tippenhauer said “Yes, she is a contact person” for Fondation Espoir, and added that “the reality is our last program was approved before she was in charge, so now she is just a contact officer for us, but we are working directly with, I mean we had previous engagements with NED in Washington…”

Maryse Balthazar is the coordinator of the Association of Haitian Women Journalists or AMIFEH. The group received a $16,815 NED grant for 2005. Balthazar said she last met with Regine Alexandre on December 8th. She says that she first started working with Alexandre in September 2005. Part of AMIFEH’s work is to train Haitian journalists how to cover elections. “Yes,” she said in an interview on 12/29/2005, “I work with Alexandre.” Balathazar said the last meeting she had with Alexandre was “before the Session of the North department,” on December 8th, and that she had commenced working with her in September of 2005.

Alexandre has also contributed to stories for the New York Times. Ethan Bonner, NYT Deputy Foreign Editor, is ‘investigating’:

Dennis Bernstein: And would you say that working with her again is on hold until you get to the bottom of this?
EB: Oh, sure. Yeah, that’s for sure.
DB: So, you won’t be using her until you know a lot more about this – you don’t have any idea so, you still might use her?
EB: No, well, you know, we’re investigating – you know how that is . . . If in fact the NED says that she works for them, or is on contract with them, then we will not be able to continue to employ her. You know, we do it on a per diem basis anyway, you understand, she’s not on a contract, or . . .
DB: I understand
EB: but in any case, we do not want those who do journalism for us to be in the employ of government-sponsored organizations. You know, so
DB: could you just complete that thought? And why is that? Because you believe
EB: Because we believe that that would be a conflict of interest for that reporter.  <snip>

Subsequent to the above interview we received a phone call from New York Times Deputy Foreign Editor, Ethan Bonnar.

He stated that a spokesperson for the NED confirmed that, in fact, Regine Alexandre is an employee of the NED. Bonnar asserted that it is his understanding that she was not an NED employee at the same time she was a stringer for the NYT.

When asked if she was paid indirectly – through another agency – Bonnar replied, “…that is a deeper question…” that he would have to look into it further:

DB: Given that she lied, is that not a serious problem?
EB: This does kinda smell bad to us. We’ve been trying to reach Ms. Alexandre but we’ve been having a difficult time. Maybe she’s in hiding.

Bonnar further stated that Regine Alexandre has been freelancing for the NYT for some time going back into the 1990’s. Additionally, he suggested that she may have “fed into” stories filed by Lydia Polgreen and David Gonzales. Bonnar said that the NYT is not yet where the AP is in announcing that it is severing all ties, but he said that if the Times confirmed that Alexandre was in fact lying regarding her work with the NED, then they would not be able to work with her.

As of an hour ago, the NYT had yet to report on Alexandre. “All the news that’s . . .”

Here’s a link to Tueday’s interview, breaking the story. There’s more as well on site from Friday’s program.

As the US/UN supported assault on Haiti’s poor continues, one gets the real story only from alternative news sources, where atrocious headlines appear:

Police use rape to terrorize women and girls in Haiti:

Since the Feb. 29, 2004, coup overthrowing the democratic government of Jean Bertrand Aristide, reports have surfaced of a growing problem: politically motivated mass rape. Women in the popular neighborhoods – which are known for their support of Aristide and the democratic movement – have accused members of the police force and U.N. soldiers, as well as members of the demobilized Haitian army, of targeting them for sexual attacks.

Bay View reporter Lyn Duff spoke this week with Estelle, a resident of Port-au-Prince’s Bel Air neighborhood about the attack on her family by police:

One had his police identification out and said, “See what this is? It means that I can do with you whatever I want.” But it was too dark for us to see the name on the card, even though we recognized it as a policeman’s identification card.

Four police officers stayed behind after the others took my husband away. The way they were looking at me, I knew I was in trouble . . .

But one police officer said to me, “Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it.” I think you can imagine what happened next. All of the police officers raped me, both in the natural place for having sex and also in the unnatural way, in my rear.

The whole time my children were there watching. When the police officers finished with me, they went for my oldest girl, the one who is here with me today. They wanted to violate her as well but she is too small. One police officer put his fingers up inside of her and she bled.

UN “Peacemakers” in Haiti

Heavily armed soldiers of the Brazilian military, which leads the UN military mission to Haiti known as MINUSTAH, had earlier taken over a building in Pele belonging to an accused drug dealer with alleged ties to presidential candidate Guy Philippe. The troops were seen reinforcing the facility with sand bags and equipment as a military unit on the ground led a group of black-hooded residents through the neighborhood on a mission to identify and target suspected “bandits” for arrest.

Twelve residents, ten men and two women, were reportedly arrested based on the accusations of the hooded informants and were taken away to an undisclosed UN facility. Several residents reacted with shock and anger at the site of the black-hooded informants, a new tactic apparently being used by the UN forces to pacify poor neighborhoods in the capital. “This is really scary because we don’t know who these hooded accusers are. We don’t even know if they are really from our area. I just saw them arrest a man I have known for years and who is not involved with anything violent. Where are they taking him?” asked one angry woman who refused to give her name.

The neighborhood of Pele borders the teeming seaside slum of Cite Soleil that has been a launching site for massive demonstrations demanding the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Demonstrations have also demanded an end to political persecution against Aristide’s Lavalas party and the release of their leaders held behind bars and deemed to be political prisoners.

On July 6, about 350 UN troops led by a Jordanian contingent under the command of the Brazilians, entered Cite Soleil on a mission to kill a suspected gang leader and Aristide supporter Emmanuel “Dread” Wilme along with four of his lieutenants. When the smoke cleared not only did the five men lie dead from a hail of bullets but also so did at least 12 unarmed residents including women and children. Exclusive video footage of the incident seen by independent journalists is said to provide enough evidence to conclude that UN forces deliberately targeted unarmed civilians in the deadly raid.

Although the UN promised an investigation into the July 6 incident, nothing has been said since except the well-known denials of UN Special Envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes who continues to dismiss any criticism of the UN mission as “propaganda and lies.”

On November 27, Cite Soleil came under heavy fire again from Brazilian forces in a military operation against suspected bandits (a code word, according to residents, borrowed from Haiti’s wealthy elite to describe Lavalas supporters in poor neighborhoods of the capital). At least seven people were wounded by automatic gunfire in an incident described by Canadian journalist Isabel MacDonald, “Suddenly, we saw four UN APCs-also manned by Brazilians–drive slowly up along the largest road in the vicinity. MINUSTAH bullets were suddenly whizzing by our heads. In the street alley we were in, people frantically flew in all directions, ducking into doorways, hiding behind ledges of the long concrete walls lining the alleyway. I took cover with a half dozen residents hiding behind a ledge of the wall that jutted out about six inches. The MINUSTAH APCs continued to fire rounds in our direction for about ten minutes.”

As the embedded reporters were treated to photo opportunities of happy smiling residents receiving aid buckets in Pele last Friday, heavy gunfire broke out from Brazilian forces on Route Nationale 1, a main highway that separates Pele from Cite Soleil. “No one fired at them. They just started shooting for no reason and several people were injured,” stated a bystander who witnessed the incident.

27 year-old Fritzner Montinard was later interviewed in St. Catherine’s hospital in Cite Soleil were he lay immobilized by automatic gunfire that strafed both of his legs. “I was walking down the street. It was quiet and I saw the blue helmets but everything seemed calm. Suddenly they opened fire and I was shot in both legs. I didn’t hear any gunfire before that and still don’t know what caused them to shot at us like that” stated Mr. Montinard from his hospital bed.

Meanwhile, it appears that the coup government will not hold scheduled elections on Jan. 8, which will be the fourth time elections have been cancelled.

Happy New Year from soggy Northern California.

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