Embassy Hosts Event Advocating World Press Freedom
Washington, Embassy of France, October 2, 2013
Representatives of the American administration,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends, mes chers amis,
It ‘s a great pleasure and privilege for my team and for me to welcome you all tonight to the Maison Française at the French Embassy as we are gathered here this evening to pay tribute to the cause of press freedom. A cause that is vital to my country and to each and every one of us.
Just five months after World Press Freedom Day marked its 20th anniversary, I am delighted to celebrate two wonderful and moving occasions tonight.
First, we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Peter Mackler Award. Each year, this very prestigious award honors journalists who are fighting for the right to information, and it has become a much anticipated event in Washington.
Peter Mackler, who passed away in 2008 and whom we so deeply miss, served as the Washington bureau chief of Agence France-Presse, after holding numerous editorial positions at AFP in both Asia and France.
Throughout his amazing career, he followed and reported on many conflicts: both wars in Iraq as well as the wars in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Peter Mackler devoted his life to the universal right to information. He worked hard to share his experience in emerging countries and to train many journalists and reporters, particularly in Iran and Malaysia.
Since 2008, the Peter Mackler Award has been honoring that legacy by promoting ethical, independent, objective journalism, regardless of the risks. Its 2013 recipient will be honored on October 24th at the National Press Club.
I would like to pay special tribute to the award’s three founders: Peter Mackler’s wife, Catherine Antoine, who will speak in a few minutes, and his two daughters, Camille and Lauren, who share their father’s engaged, committed, passionate spirit. A very special word of thanks and appreciation also to AFP – Agence France Presse – which was such a great part of Peter’s life and is well represented here this evening.
Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we also honor Rémi Ochlik, a young photojournalist who was only 28 years old when he died tragically in Syria on February 22nd, 2012.
We are privileged - and deeply moved - to inaugurate an exhibit that is quite extraordinary, as evidenced by the poignant and magnificent photos on view here at the Maison Française.
As a very courageous and talented war photographer, Rémi Ochlik left us a precious record of the events of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. For his commitment to freedom and information, Rémi paid the highest price.
The brevity of his life did not prevent him from being singled out by international critics on several occasions, whether for “The Battle of Libya,” which won a World Press Photo award, or for his reporting in Tripoli, or on Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in Tunisia, which earned him the Grand Prize of the European Journalism Festival.
It is an immense honor for the French Embassy to host this outstanding exhibit, which has already been shown in Boston, thanks to our friends from Reporters Without Borders.
Here I would like to recognize the organization’s executive director, Christophe Deloire, who has come especially from France to be here with us tonight and who will say a few words in a moment. May I also acknowledge Delphine Halgand, the head of Reporters without Borders here in the United States. A very special word of thanks also to the French company EDF for generously supporting this exhibition.
Dear friends, as you know, France and the United States have worked hard for many years to champion the freedom of the press and the right to information, from Emile Zola’s “J’accuse” in the Dreyfus affair to the Watergate scandal covered by the Washington Post to the work carried out by our many courageous war reporters.
In 2006, France was behind the initiative that led the U.N. Security Council to unanimously adopt Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts, a topic which was debated again at the Security Council last summer.
Protecting journalists in armed conflicts, as civilians of course, is and will remain one of France’s top priorities.
Each year, many journalists pay for their commitment to the freedom to inform with their lives. Each year, hundreds are imprisoned, mistreated, hindered. As far as Syria is concerned, along with Rémi Ochlik, French and American journalists Gilles Jacquier, Marie Colvin, Yves Debay and Olivier Voisin lost their lives while reporting on this terrible tragedy, as have dozens of journalists from Syria, Iraq or Japan.
Many others were prevented, physically or morally, from doing their jobs. I’m thinking of Didier François and Edouard Elias, from the French National Radio Europe 1 who have been held hostage for nearly four months in Syria, as well as many others, including the Americans Austin Tice and James Foley. On behalf of France, I want to offer them, and all the journalists around the globe who fight on a daily basis to fulfill their mission, a heartfelt tribute.
I also want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for defending the precious cause of press freedom.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming two great fighters for this cause who are both exceptional individuals, Catherine Antoine and Christophe Deloire./.