As a longtime reporter for the Miami Herald, Jacqueline Charles has provided enduring coverage of Haiti for more than two decades. Charles, who is the winner of the ICFJ Excellence in International Reporting Award, delivered the following remarks on Nov. 2 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2023.
In this world, there exist places where lives are lost every day due to violence, war, disease, malnutrition, and natural disasters. These places are often remote, impoverished, ravaged by conflict, and predominantly populated by people of color. They have little freedom of the press. Their stories remain largely untold, except when an American is killed, or kidnapped.
Fortunately, The Miami Herald and McClatchy have generously provided me with the platform, time and resources to shed light on these neglected stories.
This is why I humbly stand before you tonight to accept this award. It’s because my media outlets understand the importance of sharing these stories. They comprehend that when we expose the darkness, change can emerge.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to ICFJ for this unexpected and incredible honor, and for the opportunity to stand alongside these esteemed journalists. A decade ago, you took me to Kenya and introduced me to African journalists struggling with press freedom issues. I am forever grateful.
I also want to thank my editor, Jay Ducassi, who is always available to me, and our new executive editor, Alex Mena, who has been an inspiration to me and other immigrants. My deepest thanks to my support network, especially my niece Edith, my former editor Nancy San Martin, and my fellow NABJ Journalist of the Year, Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah.
According to the Center to Protect Journalists, a dozen Haitian journalists have lost their lives in recent years, seven of them just last year. Many others have had to flee after kidnappings, shootings and watching their homes or radio stations go up in flames.
Journalists no longer enjoy the freedom to freely enter the slums and converse with an 11-year-old girl burdened with the responsibility of raising the child of her rapist, a gang member. We can no longer access camps to speak with the latest wave of refugees fleeing as rival armed groups descend upon their community in a harrowing display of violence.
Tonight, Haiti teeters on the precipice of anarchy and chaos, marked by a pervasive sense of hopelessness and anger. My colleague, photographer Jose Iglesias, and I saw this firsthand last year, as we were briefly held hostage while reporting in a small town.
When journalists are absent to document what has occurred or what is occurring, the door is open to anything.
I am deeply grateful for the recognition of my work, which compels me to challenge each of you to join me on this vital but perilous journey.
Let’s put a human face on the consequences of failed policies and decisions and emphasize that culture, language, and geography should not deprive anyone of their entitlement to life and hope.
In a world increasingly dealing with global crises and the looming threat of war, I implore you not to forget Haiti. Its people are proud, but they are in desperate need of our passion, compassion, and courage to meet them where they are. Let us be the ones to tell their stories.