A critical lens into the negative framing of Haiti reports by the mainstream press
Last week independent filmmaker Gustavius Smith provided a critical lens to what he observes as “the negative way in which the mainstream media (including the New York Times) frames Haiti and Haitians to its readership.” In a post originally published on PolicyMic, Smith specifically referenced the recent New York Times report: Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken. In his critique, Smith likens the approach in Haiti coverage to The Bible’s Book of Revelation.
“The Book of Haiti, the gospel about this Caribbean nation according to the New York Times, is like The Book of Revelation – doom and gloom. The reporters at the New York Timesfind it more compelling to frame Haitians as desperately poor, victims of their government, and primitives incapable of achieving a better life. But as Haiti rebuilds and continues to develop, the U.S. media must stop recycling incomplete images of Haiti as a failed state to meet the expectations of its readers…
Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken introduces New York Times readers to The Caracol Industrial Park, a Haitian development project with levels of transparency and community involvement mandated for economic development projects in most U.S. cities. The construction of the industrial park is led by the UTE, a Haitian entity under the Ministry of Finance staffed and run by Haitians.
The anchor tenant, Sae-A Trading, is a South Korean clothing manufacturer and major supplier to American retailers like Walmart and The Gap. The Caracol Park and associated investments were approved by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) in December 2010 by a Board comprised of senior members from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Haitian government, union and civil society leaders, and partners from the international community. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the United States pooled resources and worked in multidisciplinary teams with the Haitian government, environmental experts, energy engineers, civil engineers, urban planners, financial advisers, labor compliance experts, economists, and industry experts. In reality, this was a deliberate, thoughtful project designed by Haitians to change their future, not an ill-advised altruistic NGO coming in to fix things.
Nonetheless, the New York Times article describes the project as one that has displaced Haitian farmers, has the potential to produce poor public housing akin to the slums of Cité Soleil, an industrial polluter, and will harken Haitian employees back to the times of slavery. Even the salary to be earned is framed as having “no roots” when compared to the “banana tree.”
These are strong words that perpetuate the image of Haitians as incapable, corrupt, disorganized victims to a voracious government that need outside protection and oversight. In contrast, the author of Haiti’s Battle to Shake off a Poor Reputation frames Haiti as a developing nation trying to find a foothold to start climbing the ladder of development. This positive portrayal of the country describes a path taken by many other developing countries, and follows a strategy that led many South Asian countries from extreme poverty to middle income status.”
Read the full piece here.