Jean Dominique

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For the Belgian poet who signed her works Jean Dominique, see Marie Closset.
Jean Dominique
Born Jean Leopold Dominique
July 30, 1930 (1930-07-30)
Haiti Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Died April 3, 2000 (2000-04-04)
Haiti Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Known for Journalism, Agronomy

Jean Léopold Dominique (July 30, 1930 – April 3, 2000) was a Haitian journalist who spoke out against successive dictatorships. He was one of the first people in Haiti to broadcast in Haitian Creole, the language spoken by most of the populace. Despite fleeing the country twice when his life was under threat, he continued to return to his native Haiti, firmly believing in the cause of the Haitian plight. He was assassinated on April 3, 2000, a crime for which no one has ever been prosecuted.

Personal life and early career[edit]

Dominique was born into wealthy family in Haiti. His father, Leopold Dominique, moved the family there from France with a belief in the cause of the Haitian plight. After Jean completed his private schooling in both France and Haiti, he trained as an agronomist agriculturalist in Paris, France. He believed in educating and training the Haitian people so they could take care of themselves. Upon his return to Haiti, he began working with the poverty-stricken peasantry. Using his skills, Dominique helped rural farmers to better manage their land and stay out of debt of wealthy landowners. Some landowners, in an effort to maintain control over the farmers, convinced local authorities to jail Dominique for six months. After his release he emerged as one of the strongest critics of the militant regime of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

During the 1960s, he became interested in film and founded Haiti's first film club. Later, he made one of Haiti's first documentaries, But, I Am Beautiful.

In the early 1960s, he founded Haiti's first independent radio station, Radio Haïti Inter, the first broadcast outlet in Creole, the language of 70 percent of Haitians.[1] Dominique joined Radio Haïti initially as a reporter, and followed this in 1971, by purchasing the station's lease. This was the first time that a Haitian radio station had broadcast locally in the language spoken by most of the populace, as opposed to French, which was the language of the ruling elite.

“The only weapon I have is my microphone and my unshakable faith as a militant for change, veritable change,” Dominique once said.[1]

Dominique was married to Michèle Montas, and they had three daughters: Jan-J (JJ), Nadine and Dolores.[2]

The Duvalier years[edit]

Despite pressure from the regimes of both "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Dominique continued criticizing the government,[3][4] campaigning for electoral democracy and social and economic justice. His criticisms resulted in Radio Haïti being shut down several times. Duvalier sent Dominique to exile in New York in 1980.[1] Six years later, after Duvalier's ouster, Dominique returned. He was greeted at the airport by 60,000 people.[5] There was some suggestion that he may have run for President himself, but Dominique declined to do so. He then became involved in the Lavalas party that won the 1990 elections.

The Aristide years[edit]

However, when the military overthrew the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, Dominique feared for his safety, and fled into exile again. He returned in 1994, after Aristide's return to power.

In the final years of his life, Dominique concentrated on issues of corruption and negligence. He criticised Pharval Laboratories, a pharmaceutical firm, for selling contaminated cough syrup that was responsible for the deaths of 60 children. Dominique also took on a former police chief Dany Toussaint (a former Haitian Senator), whom he accused of having his rival for the position of Secretary of State for Public Security, Jean Lamy, assassinated. As a result of this, Toussaint's supporters surrounded and attacked the radio station building. The New York Haitian radio station Radio Liberté had also reported that Dominique had received death threats via Toussaint's lawyers. This led Dominique to state "I know he has enough money to pay and arm henchmen," he said. "If he tries to move against me or the radio station and if I'm still alive, I'll close the station down and go into exile once again with my wife and children."[6]

As a political adviser to Haiti's President René Préval, he advocated holding elections but was criticized for his call to postpone them to ensure fairness.[1]


On April 3, 2000, at 69 years of age, Dominique was shot four times in the chest as he arrived for work at Radio Haïti. The station's security guard was also killed in the attack. President René Préval ordered three days of official mourning, and 16,000 people attended his funeral at a sports stadium. Dominique's wife fled to the United States in late 2003 after the murder of her bodyguard and repeated death threats.

Since the assassination, several large public protests have called for more action to be taken. There have been numerous inconsistencies in the investigations into the murder, including the mysterious death of one of the suspects. The first investigative judge, Jean Sénat Fleury (who was also judge on the Raboteau massacre trial) had a man named Markington arrested after the man admitted to seeing the murder. Markington, a police informer, then was able to get out of jail with an Argentinian Visa and allegedly after providing a foreign visa to the wife of another judge.[clarification needed] Fleury then resigned from the case after holding talks with Preval. Fleury claims that powerful forces were behind the crime's not being solved, and one possibility he claims is the CIA. This is discussed in more detail on pages 97–100 of the book Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti (Monthly Review Press, 2012).

Reporters without Borders (RSF) felt that Aristide government itself was hindering the investigation and called for a government aid embargo. Accused of a pro-western/pro-US bias, RSF said nothing about the killing and brutality against grassroots journalists by the 2004–2006 UN/US backed interim regime. An embargo (2001–2004) on aid to the desperate Aristide government greatly contributed to a health crisis causing an untold amount of damage.[7][8] Anti-Lavalas political parties and figures within Haiti have been accused of allegedly exploiting the case for political purposes towards destabilizing Haiti's democratically elected government which was overthrown in February 2004.

At one point Dany Toussaint led a group of armed men into Haiti's senate and threatened Lavalas senators with guns if they voted to revoke his immunity. Lavalas leaders now claim that Toussaint was a rogue working with the ex-military and was working against the government from the inside. Toussaint also hindered the Lavalas government's attempt to alter the constitution to outlaw the military.[9]


Jonathan Demme covered the life and death of Dominique in his documentary The Agronomist.


  1. ^ a b c d A Crusader Cut Down
  2. ^ David Gonzalez (March 29, 2003). "THE SATURDAY PROFILE; A Haitian Survivor Mourns, and Keeps Fighting - New York Times". HAITI: Retrieved 2014-01-30. 
  3. ^ DeYoung, Karen (November 30, 1980). "Haitian Army Rounds Up Major Dissident Spokesmen". The Washington Post. 
  4. ^ Thomas, Jo (December 1, 1980). "Haiti, Facing Economic Crisis, Arrests Major Critics". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Risky Business: The Agronomist, by Johnathan Demme
  6. ^ Who Killed Jean Dominique?
  7. ^ "Doing What We Can For Haiti". Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  8. ^ "AEGIS Security & Investigations - Los Angeles Private Investigator". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  9. ^ Jeb Sprague. Haiti and the Jean Dominique Investigation - Journal of Haitian Studies.

External links[edit]