By Hazel Trice Edney, Trice Edney News Wire Editor-in-Chief
WASHINGTON - A "Night of Solidarity" with Haiti’s SOS Journalists, slated for the National Press Club Jan. 26, has been cancelled and may be scheduled for a later date.
The on again-off again event had apparently finally come together late last week when SOS President Guyler “Guy” Delva, confirmed several performing stars, including Grammy Awarding winning Wyclef Jean. Plus five leading Haitian journalists were set to attend, he said.
But, in an email Friday, he described events in Haiti as quickly unraveling amidst post-election controversy and the speakers who began cancelling one by one, including presidential candidates Michel “Sweet Mickey” Markelly, also an entertainer, and Mirlande Manigat.
“Given the new developments, every[one] wants to make sure they are around to defend their [political] interests at this particularly decisive time,” Guy wrote in the email.
Exacerbating the fray is the sudden and suspicious return of Haiti's ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who is now prohibited from leaving Haiti by its authorities. He faces a string of lawsuits, including charges of corruption and "crimes against humanity" from former victims of his 15-year rule.
Melinda Cooke of the National Press Club released a brief statement Sunday night, stating, "The current unrest in Haiti has caused conflicts with many of the performers and presenters for the evening. All ticket buyers will receive a full refund. We apologize for any inconvenience this cancellation might cause."
SOS Journalistes is an organization of Haitian journalists created to defend liberty of the press. It accomplishes this through advocacy for the social and professional support of at risk journalists.
SOS was organizing the event, which was being sponsored by Haitian cellphone company Voila Comcel and by Yele Haiti, Wyclef Jean's foundation for Haiti, which is now focused on aid and relief after the earthquake. The concert was being organized in partnership with the National Press Club, the Capital Press Club and the Trice Edney News Wire. The tax deductible donations were to be used to support projects benefiting struggling Haitian journalists.
At least 30 journalists were among around 300,000 people who were killed in the earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010. Proceeds from a Night of Solidarity will be used to provide social and professional assistance to Haitian journalists and financial assistance to families of journalists killed in the disaster.
Organizers have not said when the event will be rescheduled.