Al Jazeera, the Agronomist and messages of change

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 22, 2013
The Agronomist, Jonathan Demme, Jean Dominique

Poster for Jonathan Demme’s 2003 documentary on Haitian agronomist and activist Jean Dominique

Al-Jazeera was in the Haitian capital, watching the court hearing that wasn’t, ie when ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier once again missed his scheduled appointment with justice. And I suddenly remembered the late Jean Dominique, agronomist and activist.

Dominique, as the Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme demonstrated in his 2003 documentary ‘The Agronomist’, brilliantly pushed the limits of free thought in a country ruled by a repressive ‘president for life’. After buying Haiti’s oldest broadcaster Radio Haiti Inter in 1968, he led a veritable revolution – on the airwaves. He did it cleverly, by disguising the message of change in news capsules about world affairs – the troubles of dictators like Somoza of Nicaragua and the Shah of Iran. The bite-sized morsels of news encouraged Haitians in the hinterland to question the status quo at home. And Papa Doc and his entourage of listeners didn’t  catch on too soon. As Dominique said, “The only weapon I have is my microphone and my unshakable faith as a militant for change, for veritable change … It’s the way for the millions, who live in dirt and poverty, to prove that they are human.  It is the difference between darkness and light.”

So to Al Jazeera’s interest in the current travails of Baby Doc and all the hooha about whether this deposed dictator will ever pay for his crimes against the Haitian people. Al Jazeera, of course, has a lively interest in world affairs and covers events everywhere with skill and insight. In more ways than one, it lives up to its motto, ‘the opinion and the other opinion’. But might it be using the Baby Doc trial rather like Jean Dominique did Somoza more than half a century ago? To transmit a disguised message about the certain end of dictators any and everywhere (and the ensuing years of catcalls and jeering as they seek to evade justice) on the Arabian peninsula for which it is named?

Just a thought.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac