There aren’t many tougher decisions to make in a newsroom than sending journalists to a war zone.
It’s a constant stress from the moment the reporter and the photographer board the plane with helmet and bulletproof vest until the return. And the closer the team gets to the bombardments, the more we have to ensure their safety almost step by step. As was the case in recent days when Isabelle Hachey and Martin Tremblay decided to go to Mykolaiv to bear witness to the horrors of war.
Very difficult not to think of all these representatives of the media affected by the shootings of the Russian army since the beginning of the conflict. It’s hard not to think of the five journalists killed: Brent Renaud, Pierre Zakrzewski, Oleksandra Kuvshinova, Evgueni Sakoun and Viktor Doudar.
Each journalist killed or neutralized by terror is one less observer of the human condition.
Excerpt from the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (2012)
We even come, in a twisted way, to wonder if it is a good idea that the International Court of Justice is already targeting Russia in a categorical way. Isn’t this adding an incentive to kill journalists, who are so many witnesses to the invasion that is taking place?
To use the title of a Hitchcock novel: “Silence, we kill…”
And yet, it is necessary to send journalists on the spot. We must send photographers to report on the conflict and its consequences.
Remember the importance of journalistic coverage during the Vietnam War era, or during the liberation of the death camps at the end of the Second World War.
Sending reporters makes it possible to tell the fate of the victims, to assess the damage incurred, to impute war crimes to those responsible and, more simply, to understand what is happening on the spot.
Moreover, many of you have been there since the start of the conflict, dear readers. The readership of The Press devotes an average of more than 15 minutes a day to covering the conflict, proof of the importance of bearing witness to the conflict in Ukraine, particularly in the field. And proof of your interest in understanding the ins and outs of this war, despite all its horror.
But of course, war hedging carries a risk. And this is even truer today than 30 years ago.
The oldest remember that in another era, writing “TV” in big white letters on a car was the equivalent of an invisibility cloak. Not anymore, alas.
As the Swiss photographer Guillaume Briquet learned the hard way a few days ago. After passing a Ukrainian checkpoint on a road to Mykolaiv, he was targeted by fire from suspected members of a Russian special commando. Despite the many “press” signs on his vehicle.
That said, let’s make one thing clear right away: I certainly wouldn’t want to give the impression that killing a journalist in a war zone is worse than killing a civilian.
It’s just as bad, actually.
Because the Geneva Conventions put on an equal footing “journalists who carry out dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict” and civilians.
As long as they do not take a direct part in hostilities, both are equally protected by international law, even if the work of journalists requires them to run risks which sometimes approach those of soldiers.
We must therefore speak of the approximately 800 civilians killed in Ukraine, 1,300 civilians injured and 3.2 million refugees whose lives have changed, according to UN figures.
And we also have to talk about the journalists who are silenced when they are sent to a war zone at the risk of their lives… so that we are better informed.