Reporters Without Borders (RSF) yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the inauguration of the Memorial for Journalists in the northern French city of Bayeux together with the loved-ones of journalists who have been killed in connection with their work.
Those attending included Elena Milashina, the close friend and colleague of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building elevator exactly ten years ago today.
“That day, Putin said Anna’s journalistic work was not very important,” Milashina said. “And in the weeks that followed, Novaya Gazeta’s staff were very isolated. But the existence in the world of a place like this memorial shows that some people have not forgotten the importance of journalism.”
Milashina has continued the work of Politkovskaya, whose investigative coverage of the Chechen conflict exposed many human rights violations and atrocities by the Russian army.
Maryvonne Lepage, the mother of Camille Lepage, a French photographer murdered in the Central African Republic in May 2014, also stressed the memorial’s importance.
“The first time I came to the Memorial for Journalists, it was very difficult, it was like burying Camille a second time, and I promised myself I would not return,” she said. “But then I realised that the best tribute you can pay to a person who has died is to remember them by talking about them.”
Those present also included Boshra Jerf, the wife of Naji Jerf, a Syrian journalist murdered in Turkey on 27 December 2015; Claudine Kent, a close relative of David Gilkey, a photo-journalist killed on 5 June 2016 in Afghanistan; and Deo Namujimbo, the brother of Didace Namujimbo, a Radio Okapi journalist murdered in Bukavu, in the east of the DRC, in November 2008.
A new monument to journalists “Missing In Action” was inaugurated in the presence of members of the Nérac, Thirion, Caron, Kieffer and Flynn families.
Created at the request of the families of reporters and photographers who went missing while on assignment, it shows the silhouette of a reporter-photographer, symbolizing the physical absence of those whose bodies were never found and of whom the memories will never fade in part because they could not be mourned properly.
RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire used the occasion to reiterate RSF’s appeal to the United Nations for more effective action to protect journalists.
“The need to ensure the safety of journalists is greater than ever,” Deloire said. “RSF has been campaigning tirelessly for the UN to appoint a special representative. I hope to be able to come back next year with an undertaking from the next UN secretary-general to establish a mechanism that helps to combat impunity.”