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Haitian journalist snatched as kidnapping scourge continues

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Suspected gangs have kidnapped another Haitian journalist as colleagues demanded his release, a government office announced Wednesday.

The journalist was identified by the Office of Citizen Protection as Jean Thony Lorthé, who works for Radio Vision 2000.

Local media reported that Lorthé was headed to a funeral with two other people including his brother, who is a professor, when they were kidnapped last Friday in the Laboule 12 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.

A gang called Ti Makak, which translates to “Little Macaques,” is known to control the community of Laboule. Last year, gang members killed two other journalists who were reporting in that area.

The Association of Haitian Journalists demanded that kidnappers release the group, noting that Lorthé’s family is unable to pay a ransom and that the journalist suffers from serious health problems.

“The widespread insecurity raging in the country, characterized by acts of murder, kidnappings and beatings, has a major impact on the profession of journalism in Haiti,” the association told online news site AlterPresse.

The number of reported kidnappings soared to more than 1,200 last year, more than double what was reported the previous year, according to the U.N. At least seven journalists were killed in Haiti last year, and several more remain missing, including freelance photographer Vladjimir Legagneur, who disappeared in March 2018 after he was last seen in the Grand Ravine area.