RSF organises tribute to French journalist killed in Ukraine
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organised a public gathering in Paris on 10 June for all those wanting to pay tribute to Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, a French journalist who was killed while reporting in Ukraine on 30 May.
Relatives, friends, colleagues and fellow journalists were among the hundreds who attended the homage in Place de la République to this 32-year-old “free journalist” and to the vocation that gave meaning to his life – journalism.
A video reporter for the French TV news channel BFMTV, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed by shrapnel from an exploding shell while in a humanitarian truck in Lysychansk filming the evacuation of civilians from the eastern front line to a safer location. He paid with his life for doing his job as a reporter, in the quest for the reliable, honest and independent reporting that is vital for our democracies.
Those honouring his memory, his commitment to “tell the world” and his attachment to the right to information and press freedom included his mother Sylviane Leclerc-Imhoff, his partner Sam Cottet and fellow BFM TV journalist Maxime Brandstaetter, who was with him in Ukraine when he was killed.
“Part of our freedom goes up in smoke whenever a journalist is killed or prevented from working”
“We have come together to pay tribute to this brilliant, committed, passionate and big-hearted journalist,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “‘His short life will have had a meaning,’ his mother Sylviane wrote to me shortly after his death. We come together here to celebrate this meaning, the meaning of professional commitment, the meaning of a vocation, that of journalist. We are here to solemnly affirm our attachment to freedom, to the truth of the facts and to pluralism at a moment in history when regimes are trying to impose a world order based on propaganda.”
Sylviane Leclerc-Imhoff delivered a powerful address about her son’s reporting, the “values with which he was imbued” and his commitment to “showing us reality in all impartiality, allowing us to understand beyond the propaganda, and denouncing the horror with modesty and restraint, without seeking sensationalism” in order “to erect a bulwark of positive humanity against barbarism.”
Emphasising the importance of his profession, she added: “Looking beyond Fred, I want to shout to you loud and clear that whenever a journalist is murdered or prevented from working, regardless of the country they come from or the media outlet they work for, it is a part of our freedom that goes up in smoke.”
BFM TV director-general Marc-Olivier Fogiel said: “We mourn a committed journalist (...) He lost his life in a dangerous area, but only after weighing all the risks. He was not a hothead. (...) By being here, I wanted to emphasise the importance of covering this conflict and to thank the BFM TV crews and reporters who are there, who are doing this despite the risk to their lives.”
Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff is the eighth journalist to be killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February, in a war of aggression that is also a war on information in which journalists and media outlets have been the targets of gunfire, abduction, threats, torture and execution.
Since the start of the war, RSF has registered more than 50 attacks against journalists and media that qualify as war crimes, and has filed a total of five complaints with the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor and with Ukraine's prosecutor general. RSF is also trying to provide journalists with the best protection possible and is calling for a fully transparent investigation into Leclerc-Imhoff’s death.
This vibrant tribute ended with songs and a final minute of applause for Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff and for journalism that, RSF’s secretary-general said, could be defined as “positive humanity in the face of barbarism.”