CBC news reports daily from Haiti on cholera crisis and election; airs a harmful fatalism

November 25, 2010

Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, is airing television and radio reports daily this week from Haiti.

The cholera epidemic
In the last two days, the reports have focused on the catastrophic consequences of the cholera epidemic. Television news reports on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings by Paul Hunter showed graphic images of the epidemic and its spread. Radio news reports by Connie Watson were similar.

On Tuesday evening, Hunter briefly interviewed the UN's chief humanitarian representative, Nigel Fisher. He said there is not enough medical supplies and personnel to deal with the crisis. Hunter reported, "Cholera is exploding. All the conditions for a massive cholera epidemic are present in Haiti. People are going to die here in the week and months ahead in the thousands."

The late evening radio news on CBC last night carried a report from BBC's Mark Doyle. He, too, reported on the shortage of supplies and medical personnel. He quoted a spokesperson for MSF (Doctors Without Borders), "It is spreading everywhere, and the truth is that we do not know where it will stop."

It must be said, none of the CBC reports have probed WHY the cholera outbreak is proving as deadly as it is. There is an air of fatalism to their reports. But of course, fate has nothing to do with it. The conditions for the wildfire spread of cholera have been laid by years and decades of policy by the wealthy countries of the world. The policies of neglect and interference that preceded the earthquake, enforced by a foreign military and police occupation force, have been extended and deepened since. They have made Haiti what it is today.

The flawed election
Last night, Connie Watson delivered CBC's radio news' first substantive report on the November 28 election. The report touched on two of the reasons that make the election so flawed--the presence on the voter roll of the names of those who perished in the earthquake, and the difficulty of voter registration. She gave the example of one woman who was unable to register, despite several visits to a registration office. Ms. Watson did not report how typical is the example of this one woman. But most notably, she continued the de facto embargo by CBC news against reporting the exclusion of political parties from the election, notably the Fanmi Lavalas. CBC is aware of the exclusion; it has chosen, so far, to not report it.

The Globe and Mail national daily is also silent on the exclusion. Yesterday, it penned an important editorial calling for an investigation into the source of the cholera outbreak. But it also argued in support of the election, saying that Haiti needs a "strong leader" and the election will, hopefully, provide this.

Today, the experienced and influential CBC journalist and news program host Brian Stewart publishes a commentary on the CBC news website on the situation in Haiti. His views are permeated with prejudice as well as fatalism for the future of the country. He bemoans the state of earthquake relief and recovery and concludes that the only answer is an outright takeover of the country by the same foreign powers that have run Haiti into the ground. He writes, "Experts I respect have urged the need for some form of international mandate to protect Haiti, basically from its own corrupt leadership and lack of governance, until some workable security and legal system can be established."

But Canada and the other world powers have been funding and training Haiti's "security and legal system" ever since they overthrew elected government there in 2004. The "coup" (to use the term in the aforementioned Globe and Mail editorial) of that year was preceded by a murderous, four-year aid embargo against the government elected in 2000. No doubt, Mr. Stewart's "experts" overlooked this small detail when offering to him their prescriptions for Haiti's future. But how to explain that an experienced journalist could be either blissfully unaware or uncaring of such facts? Read his full commentary here, http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/11/24/f-vp-stewart.html .

Roger Annis
Haiti Solidarity BC