“I Like That Song. Put It On My Phone.” How They Got the Video From the Soldiers In Port Salut

I’ve been asked a number of times how I obtained the cell phone of the apparent assault by Uruguayan UN troops on Johnny Jean. The answer is simple: The video is circulating on cell phones in Port Salut. On Wednesday, after speaking with the family at the courthouse, they allowed me to make a copy off the victim’s cousin’s phone.

More interesting is how the video was initially obtained, through what local activist Ernso Valentin called, “the strategy of the population.” Yesterday evening I found the two young men who, by all accounts, swiped the video from a soldier’s phone. They explained to me what happened – about a week after July 18, they said, the date of the assault. It all started with an upbeat, pulsating Spanish song (which I stupidly mistook for Konpas at first).

21-year-old Viaud Fegens on the right, with his 18-year-old friend Leveille Jean-Michel, whose phone swiped the video.

Viaud Fegens: “Me and Jean-Michel were passing by the base. A soldier named Leo called out to us. I went and sat down and he to put the music on his telephone.”

Leveille Jean-Michel: “We were listening to some music and he liked it.”

VF: “We’ve passed by the base before playing Spanish music. This time, he liked it. He asked me to put it on his phone and he gave me his phone. So I went into his phone to see if it had cool things or nice videos on it. I took his phone, and I’m looking inside to see what it has on it. Then, I came upon the video! When I saw the video, I said [to Jean Michel], ‘Hey look at this!’ The soldier went to sit down. So we’re looking at the phone, and we see the video. I said, ‘Look, that’s my cousin. My cousin, Johnny.’ I’m looking at it and I see what they did. I said, ‘Oh mezami [roughly translates to holy crap]!’ I transmitted the video via Bluetooth onto this phone. I said, ‘Go give him his phone.’ So then I have the video, I’m watching it again, and it’s dominating me. It’s giving me problems [in my head]. So then later, we had a meeting across from the Commiseriat. MINUSTAH was there. We talked about everything bad that MINUSTAH does in Port Salut. They’re dumping their trash in aviation… Now when we come to the subject of what they did to Johnny, they said they don’t believe it happened. Then we showed them the proof. The MINUSTAH chief saw the video, and he’s shocked! He sweats!”

LJM: “He’s afraid. He’s afraid.”

VF: “There were three of them. The deputy was there too. He asked us to transmit it by Bluetooth for him. We did it. He looks again, he watches again, and he’s shocked, sweating.”

LJM: “It was weighing on me since I saw that. I was shocked when I was seeing it, it made me feel terrible. They committed the act but they didn’t want people outside to know about it. Yes, I thought it was rape. Because he’s yelling, ‘Help!'””

VF: “He’s saying, “Problem, problem, that he’s in a problem.” And they pulled down his pants. The video is proof. Because when they saw it, they could see what the soldiers did. Everyone who sees this video can see what happens. I heard about the protest tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll attend. But MINUSTAH represents a force in the country. It’s MINUSTAH that helped created a situation where we don’t have war or gunfire. They gave us some calm. But they violated a young man, they’re dumping trash, [AH: didn’t understand this part]… this isn’t good. We didn’t have these things in our country. It’s them who gave us cholera. We never had these things before.”

Viaud’s mother is worried. “Are they going to be ok? I’m scared. Will something happen to them?” she kept asking me. I left my number and tried to assure her that nothing bad would happen.

Update 9/16/11: After removing the photo and the boys names on the advice of some commenters, I’ve just restored them. I’m in touch with the boys and they want recognition for what they did. Viaud specifically asked that his photo and name be included. His mother never objected.

14 thoughts on ““I Like That Song. Put It On My Phone.” How They Got the Video From the Soldiers In Port Salut”

  1. Excellent work with all these reports from Port Salut. I appreciate you looking into various angles of the story – how the video got out, the indiscriminate dumping of waste water and trash in the community – these are important details for people to understand how the UN Peacekeepers are really interacting with the population more than six years into their mandate in Haiti. No respect for the land, the sea, or the people of Haiti.

  2. Thank you so much for keeping us informed and bringing such an important matter to the public’s attention. Many people are unaware of MINUSTAH’s true reputation in Haiti. You’re doing an exceptional job bringing to light the stories that most people choose not to address because of various political implications. I applaud your heartfelt compassion. Keep telling the world the truth!

  3. I really appreciate that you wrote about this incident but why did you show the faces of the two
    young men (above) who used Bluetooth to transfer the Uruguayan video to their phones?
    Their mother is right to worry because they could be in danger. Please be careful.

    1. Maggie, I thought about that and I asked the kids and the mother. As they say in the interview, they were present at a meeting with MINUSTAH. The troops know they are the two guys who took the video already. At the protest today the mother approached me and said she didn’t sleep at all last night. She’s scared MINUSTAH might pay someone to harm her son. I told her I could remove the boys’ names and photos from the article, but she waved me down and said, everyone already knows it was them. She’s simply afraid, though again I emphasized that the eyes of the world are on Port Salut and they’d be insane to try anything like that. “Ou pa bezwen pe!”

  4. I agree with Maggie’s comment. In the interest of security, publishing the photo and the full names of the two young men seems risky at best and has not much value to the reader.

    Just because the mother thinks it is o.k. doesn’t make it so. The mother might not be able to asses the risks correctly and you as a journalist would be at least morally liable should anything happen, regardless of the family’s statements to you.

    The young men were known locally in Port Salut, publishing their images makes them known in a much wider circle and exposes them to dangers they might not be able to flee from.

  5. I agree with Maggie and Dominique. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the photograph. I wondered for their safety.

  6. God’s work UN soldiers have been raping Africans for the longest…I want to say thank you to the soldier that videotaped the crime now the world has proof of what exactly UN soldiers are doing. excellent job to those who copied the video..

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