Slain war reporters honoured in France

Tributes were paid at a ceremony in France on Thursday to the numerous journalists killed over the past year, including US reporter James Foley, whose "vile" beheading at the hands of Islamic State militants sparked global outrage.

Slain war reporters honoured in France
James Foley, who was beheaded by Isis extremists in Iraq recently. Photo: AFP

Foley's parents were present as a memorial was unveiled to 113 journalists killed between April 2013 and August 2014 on the sidelines of the Bayeux prize for war correspondents.

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders said that "2014 will remain marked by the vile decapitation of journalists… with threats to the next hostage. It's the height of ignominy."

Already this year, 51 journalists have been killed, an "extremely high" number, Deloire said.

Foley's mother Diane said the family was "so honoured that you understand this sacrifice."

"We tried to dissuade him but he told us 'Mum I have found my passion. Somebody must give voice to the families, children and people suffering," said Diane Foley, adding that a foundation would be set up in honour of her son.

Foley was kidnapped in November 2012 in northern Syria where he was covering the uprising against Bashar al-Assad for GlobalPost, AFP and other media.

He was murdered by Islamic State extremists in August.

Particular tribute was also paid to 26-year-old French photographer Camille Lepage, killed in Central African Republic in May and Sardar Ahmad, 40, an AFP reporter killed with his wife and two of his children in a Taliban attack.

His third child, only two years old, at the time of the attack, survived and now lives in Canada with guardians.

Also honoured were German photographer for Associated Press Anja Niedringhaus, killed too in Afghanistan and Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two journalists for France's RFI who died in Mali in November.

Lepage's mother Maryvonne said her daughter had died because she was "doing her job" and urged young journalists to "continue their commitment" despite her loss.

Phil Chetwynd, editor-in-chief of Agence France-Presse (AFP), hailed the "astonishing bravery" of Foley and said the "dignity of his family has been an inspiration."

Chetwynd also paid tribute to "dear colleague" Sardar Ahmad, saying there was "no finer journalist in Afghanistan."

"It has been a traumatic and painful year for all of us who are committed to the practice of journalism and seeking the truth in the most difficult parts of the world," added Chetwynd.

He pledged to "honour the memory" of those lost "by refusing to be intimidated and continuing to do our job without compromise, as safely as we possibly can."

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France slams Belarus’ ‘arbitrary’ crackdown on foreign media

France on Sunday condemned an "arbitrary" crackdown against the media in Belarus after the accreditation of several journalists working for foreign media was withdrawn in the wake of disputed presidential elections.

France slams Belarus' 'arbitrary' crackdown on foreign media
Belarus opposition supporters protesting against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 27. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP
“The arbitrary measures taken by the Belarusian authorities against journalists violate press freedom,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
“I call on the Belarusian authorities to reverse these measures without delay,” he added, saying that the crisis in Belarus requires “the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue”.
“Repressive measures against journalists cannot help,” he said.
Belarusian authorities on Saturday withdrew the accreditation of journalists working for several foreign media, including AFP, ahead of a major demonstration Sunday challenging the results of the presidential election.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has faced unprecedented protests since the disputed August 9 election in which he claimed a landslide victory with 80 percent of the vote in a poll
that the opposition says was rigged.
Belarus government spokesman Anatoly Glaz said the decision to revoke the media accreditations was taken on the recommendation of the country's counter-terrorism unit.
He did not specify how many journalists were affected by the measure, but foreign media including the BBC, Reuters and Radio Liberty reported the withdrawal of accreditation of several of their journalists.
Belarusian journalists working for Agence France-Presse also had their accreditation revoked.