Reporters Without Borders and the northern French town of Bayeux inaugurated a Journalists Memorial on 2 May to honour the 1,889 journalists killed since 1944 while doing their job. Attending were the families of some of the dead, along with Bayeux mayor Patrick Gomont, local senator Jean-Léonce Dupont and Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders.
The memorial is a landscaped pathway bordered by 23 white stones bearing the journalists’ names. It was designed and built by French architect Samuel Craquelin, who won the French environment ministry’s National Landscaping Prize in 1995 and the French senate’s Heritage Landscape Prize in 2003.
"It’s the only place in the world where my husband’s name is carved in stone,” said Michèle Montas, widow of murdered Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, when she visited Bayeux recently. The families and friends of several other commemorated journalists have also visited the memorial.
24 journalists and five media assistants have been killed around the world so far this year. The fighting in Iraq is the most deadly for journalists since World War II and 167 media workers have been killed there since it began in March 2003.
At least 63 media workers were killed in the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975, at least 49 during the 1991-95 wars in former Yugoslavia and 77 in the 1993-96 Algerian civil war. Recent fighting in Sri Lanka and Somalia has shown once again that journalists working in war zones are in great danger.
Bayeux was the first town in France to be liberated from the Nazi occupation, on 7 June 1944, and already has the Museum of the Battle of Normandy (a memorial to the landing of Allied forces) and the General Charles de Gaulle Museum, in the building that was the headquarters of the first leaders of liberated France. Bayeux, the “capital” for the Allied landing beaches, also has a British military cemetery.
Dead journalists whose relatives or friends attended the Memorial’s inauguration:
Ogulsapar Muradova She was the correspondent in Turkmenistan for the US radio station Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and died on 14 September 2006 after being tortured in prison. She had been arrested three months earlier in Ashgabat and sentenced to six years in prison for “illegal possession of weapons.” In fact, the regime targeted her because she was campaigning for democracy and had helped make a documentary about the country.
Grégoire de Bourgues He was killed in Kazakhstan on 2 August 2006 after three months in the country working on an advertising feature ordered by the government. Three people broke into his apartment, killed him and made off with 5,000 euros and his mobile phone and laptop computer. Police said he was the victim of a robbery that went wrong. The trial of the suspected killers began on 31 January 2007.
Paul Douglas and James Brolan Douglas, a cameraman with the US TV network CBS, and soundman James Brolan were killed in Baghdad on 29 May 2006 in an attack on a US army unit which they were accompanying. They were the most recent foreign journalists to be killed in Iraq.
Jean-Claude Diamant-Berger A young French military photographer who went to Bayeux at the time of the liberation of France and died in August 1944 while working.
Olivier Quemeneur A French journalist killed on 1 February 1994 during an attack in the Algiers casbah while working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). He was the second of a long list of media workers killed that year, most of them murdered.
Pierre Blanchet A senior correspondent for the French weekly Nouvel Observateur, he was killed when his car hit a landmine on 19 September 1991 in Pretinja (in today’s Croatia) while reporting on the fighting in the former Yugoslavia.
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