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Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007
Popular Haitian Talk Show Host is Found Slain
Washinton Post Foreign Service

MEXICO CITY, May 23 -- A popular Haitian actor and radio talk show host was found shot to death Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, the second killing of a Haitian radio journalist in the past week. Fran§ois Latour was reportedly killed after being kidnapped, making him the latest victim in a swarm of kidnappings plaguing the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. His death comes one week after radio host Alix Joseph was slain in the northern city of Gonaives. At least nine Haitian journalists have been killed since 2000.

Latour was beloved by poor Haitians for broadcasting in Creole rather than French, which is favored by Port-au-Prince's small but powerful elite. Known for his wit, Latour recorded hours of humorous advertisements and radio programs. He also starred in Haitian films.

"Everyone is horrified," Michele Pierre-Louis, director of the Open Society Institute in Haiti, said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince. "This was a great man. Such a witty man."

Residents think Latour's killing may have been a random act, Pierre-Louis said. Unlike other journalists who have been killed in Haiti, Latour seldom touched on political themes.

Hours before Latour's body was found, his kidnappers demanded a $100,000 ransom, Gérin Alexandre, news director at Caraibes FM, told the Reuters news agency. Latour was shot in the stomach, Alexandre said.

Ransoms from kidnappings are one of the main sources of revenue for gangs that terrorize Port-au-Prince's slums. Heavily armed U.N. troops have fought off-and-on street battles with gangs for months, hoping to bring order to slums where garbage piles up uncollected and canals serve as open sewers.

President Rene Preval, who has been in office just over a year, initially tried to negotiate with gang leaders but has lately endorsed military offensives to combat them.

The killing of a radio journalist in Haiti was the subject of a 2003 documentary by Jonathan Demme. The murder of Jean Dominique, a pioneering Port-au-Prince broadcaster who advocated for better treatment of the poor, was explored in "The Agronomist."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company. Reprinted from The Washington Post, Page A18, of Thursday, May 24, 2007.

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