By Deji Olukotun
The first day of the Liberez la parole (Free the Word) festival in Haiti kicked off with aplomb. Housed in the bucolic Institut Francais in Port-au-Prince, a star-studded panel of authors and journalists probed the limits of free expression. The speakers discussed the importance of objectivity and truth in journalism, while reserving a broader space for fictional stories. At the same time, they noted under-reporting on issues affecting vast swathes of the population in impoverished neighborhoods such as Cite de Soleil. The speakers also examined the new spaces for dialogue that emerged after the fall of the Duvalier regime, while observing ongoing challenges in reporting on the government during the post-quake recovery period.
The panel was followed by an equally lively discussion of women and free expression featuring Evelyn Trouillot and Emmelie Prophete. The two writers questioned assumptions about “chick lit” and called for greater support of girls and women writers, who are facing barriers to entry, caused in part by poverty but also gender bias.