A group of young people out of school at the reporters' memorial, October 12, 2018. RFI / Aurore Lartigue
The city of Bayeux is home to the first Memorial of the dead reporters in the exercise of their profession. At the time of the price of war correspondents, the profession gathered there for a tribute ceremony. But throughout the year, it is a place of visit for tourists, high school students and other walkers. Reportage.
" To want oneself freely is also to want others free ". At the entrance of the Reporters' Memorial, on the edge of Bayeux, the quote of Simone de Beauvoir slams like a whip in the form of a reminder: despite the risks and obstacles, there is no question of turning a blind eye to the wars that are tearing the planet and the tyrants who oppress their peoples. No question of keeping quiet.
In the alley that guides the visitor, the wood chips on the floor dampen the sound of footsteps. As one sinks away from the trees, engraved stelae of the names of the journalists killed in the exercise of their trade since 1944 stand on both sides of the road, solemn.
A place that " sticks " to the history of Bayeux
With his camera around his neck, Gérard Durin took advantage of a break between two exhibitions of the Bayeux-Calvados-Normandy prize to come "to immerse himself in the place he did not know ". As a photography lover, the retired math teacher finds this perspective of white stones a certain " aestheticism ". " It's a place full of emotion and that sticks well to the city of Bayeux, " he notes.
The stele of the year 2016: 74 dead. RFI / Aurore Lartigue
A few kilometers from the landing beaches, the Norman city is home to the largest British cemetery of the Second World War. Just behind, on the other side of the street, its immaculately mowed lawn is studded with nearly 5,000 white stones. Because here we know that democracy and freedom are not easy to win. And the fight is sometimes very expensive.
As an echo of this particular history of the Normandy coasts, in 2006, in partnership with Reporters Without Borders, the city decided to create a place of memory dedicated to journalists. Nearly 2,500 names cover some thirty stelae.
Once a year, the profession meets there for a tribute ceremony. The rest of the year, a handful of tourists alone shredding over this large garden. And from time to time, a class on school outings disturbs the tranquility of the place. Then, dissipated teenagers zigzag between the stelae by taking pictures, a pedagogical booklet in the hands.
"I did not realize there were so many"
This memorial is also addressed to them. As a stele indicates, with this place, Bayeux wished "to invite the young generation to the reflection ". Convey the message. But today, it must be admitted, the companions of this class of 3rd are a little perplexed. " We had questions like, " Are they buried under the stele? " I wonder if they realize, wonders Mrs. Lepoultier, the documentalist this college of Agon-Coutainville (Manche). What can young people retain from all this? They have a hard time finding their bearings geographically and they have trouble understanding conflicts. But hey, our job is to plant seeds, "she keeps hope.
The reporters' memorial counts about thirty steles and around 2,500 names. RFI / Aurore Lartigue
All is not lost. The seed has sometimes even sprouted. " It takes a lot of courage! Exclaims Mégane Tombay. The schoolgirl does not return to the number of names on the steles. " I respect a lot the people who do this because I would not be able to do it and these journalists bring us information that we could not have otherwise, " says Soizig Lavarenne. Ms. Lepoultier's students also noted that the year 1994 was particularly deadly. " There are two double-sided steles ," says Soizig. 103 journalists killed that year. Nearly half in Rwanda at war.
In older children, the message went well. " We hear about journalists who die in the field, but I did not realize there were so many. Here we see the steles filled with names and we realize. So it's important that there is a place for the duty of memory, "says Brice Germond, who covers the price throughout the week with his class of high school Jeanne-d'Arc Bayeux. " All these names of different nationalities also remind us that there is not only us and that here in France, we are on the right side, " adds his comrade Anna Grillot. As echoing the quote of Simone de Beauvoir.
" To write this name on a stone is already an action "
Time is covered in the aisles of the memorial. We fear the first drops. Pete is on vacation in the area with his wife. Not to come to the memorial was unthinkable for him: " For me, it's a form of respect vis-à-vis my colleagues, " says the German journalist, while his voice is cracked and his eyes are blurred. " I know a lot of them, " he says.
Relatives of the reporters killed in the last twelve months in front of the new stele, Bayeux, October 12, 2018. RFI / Aurore Lartigue
Remember for what? On Wednesday, one more stele was inaugurated. It bears the names of 55 people who lost their lives in 2017: that of the Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh, shot by motorcycle shooters, those of Stephan Villeneuve, Véronique Robert and their companion Bakhtiar Haddad, who are added to all the others fell in Iraq, a litany of Mexican surnames that mingle with the Filipino names, that of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia too, killed in the explosion of his car in Malta, in full Europe. As recalled by Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General on this occasion, nearly half of the journalists killed in 2017 have been killed in countries in peace.
In his speech, the son of the Maltese reporter, Matthew, stressed the strength of a place of memory like this one. " My mother Caruana Galizia was murdered in a society where we are not allowed to commemorate her. A spontaneous memorial in his honor (...) was destroyed 20 times by people working for the government. The government has literally erected a three-meter barrier around the memorial, "he said, noting that remembering is nothing trivial. " Putting that name on a stone is already an action. It is an action that enrages governments, populist tyrants and cynics who, to maintain their power, hope that these journalists are forgotten. By commemorating my mother and people like her, you are challenging this power, you are acting, "he said. Remember to resist.