Radio and TV stations are attacked in Haiti

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The Independent US

A group of men armed with sledgehammers smashed radio antennas in Haiti yesterday, forcing at least seven radio stations and one television station off the air.

The men, described as vandals by one station owner, tied up guards and began attacking antennas on a hillside outside of suburban Petionville.

The privately-owned stations Radio Galaxie, Radio Kiskeya, Radio Melodie, Radio Magique-Stereo, Radio Plus, and Radio Signal-FM went off the air. Radio and Television Ti-Moun, which is owned by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Foundation for Democracy, was also silenced.

Marvel Dandin, co-owner of Radio Kiskeya, who blamed the government, accompanied authorities to the site. Police said they were investigating.

The attackers damaged the antennas of pro-government stations only because their "attack was blind. Nothing marks the difference between one antenna and another," Mr Dandin said.

The attackers tried to force the security guards to identify the antenna of Radio Caraibes, which government partisans have accused of anti-government bias in its reporting, Mr Dandin said.

Haiti has been in turmoil since the May 2000 elections that the opposition says were rigged. Opposition parties refuse to participate in legislative elections unless Mr Aristide steps down. At least 46 have been killed and more than 100 wounded in street clashes between government supporters and opponents.

Mr Aristide has said he opposes violence and favours a free press. But Haitian media groups accuse police and government supporters of harassing journalists. Thirty Haitian journalists are in self-imposed exile after receiving threats and there have been several attacks on media outlets.