Twenty-three years ago this weekend, as Haitian strongman Jean-Claude Duvalier went into exile and the Caribbean island nation turned another page in its troubled history, the Voice of America swung into action.
Building on the brief, 5-minute news feed it already was broadcasting in the island nation's Creole language, VOA began expanded, regularly scheduled programming to keep Haitians informed of the news and events now cascading around them.
Since that day, February 7, 1986, the Creole Service has provided accurate, balanced and comprehensive news and information to the people of Haiti and Creole-speaking Caribbean countries. Throughout the nation's recent history, VOA's Creole Service has been there for its listeners.
In the 1990s, when Haiti's democratically elected president was ousted in a military coup that suppressed press freedoms, the Creole Service kept its listeners informed, even though in doing so reporters and listeners faced arrest. Other crises followed and VOA was there. The Creole Service has become such a trusted news source that its reports often provide the basis of coverage provided by other Haitian broadcast outlets and even state radio.
Coverage isn't limited to events in Haiti, however. Using the resources of VOA's global news network, the Creole Service keeps its audience informed on world events. During the historic 2008 U.S. presidential election, many Haitians took part in call-in shows that provided a link to the democratic process. A special broadcast of the inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States featured a simultaneous Creole translation of President Obama's inaugural address.
"The people of Haiti have seen political turmoil and most recently devastating hurricanes," said VOA Director Danforth Austin. "The Voice of America has covered these events and more, providing 90 minutes of news and information on weekdays and 60 minutes on weekends. We thank our Haitian listeners for their support."
As the Creole Service marks its 23rd anniversary, its 8 broadcasters and 13 reporters remain dedicated to providing the news, features and other information important in a free society.
Going forward, the Creole Service renews a promise VOA made to its listeners more than 65 years ago: "The news may be bad or good. We will tell you the truth."