To analyse French media coverage of the Ukraine crisis, I met Emilie Blachère, French reporter for Paris Match. She told me about her own perception of the conflict from the field and we spoke about the difficulties to cover this crisis.
Emilie is a French reporter for the French weekly magazine Paris Match. She was born in Marseille and did her Master’s in biology because she is “a fan of cetaceans”! Later she studied Journalism at ESJ Lille, in France. She started to work as a reporter for Paris Match immediately after she finished her degree in Journalism.
Working at Paris Match gives you the opportunity to cover many different topics. I can spend two days in Ukraine before covering a totally different story in another country the week after! All I want is to write about hot topics. At the really beginning of the crisis, my colleague Alfred de Montesquiou was in Ukraine but when the protests began on Maidan square, he was in Sudan so I went to Kiev to cover it. Now I go back to Ukraine really often to keep writing the story…”
About war reporting
“It’s a real lifestyle choice. Conflicts involving bombings are inhumane because you never know where the bomb falls… You have no security, no bodyguard! The only thing you have to protect yourself on the field is your helmet and your bulletproof vest”
© Alvaro Canovas for Paris Match
War reporting is a lifestyle choice. When you are on the frontline the only thing you have to protect yourself is your helmet and your bulletproof vest
About your organization on the field
“I have my own driver and I always work with a translator. In Donetsk, French journalists all go to the same hotel but I prefer to book a room in another hotel. I feel more independent. To work as a French journalist in Donetsk requires four different passes given by the Ukrainian government! After a long administrative process, the Ukrainian government delivered me a press card. The administrative process is really complicated.
“Pro-Russians don’t even know that Western journalists have a Ukrainian press card, we must hide it otherwise they may think you are a spy…”
About the difficulties to cover this conflict
“As a journalist, I really care about words. I can’t use words to describe things that I don’t actually see on the field. I really try to be objective about the situation in Ukraine. For instance, I don’t say it is a “war” although I know it is a war.
But from the legal point of view, the war must be officially declared by a country to another country. And this war between Russia and Ukraine is not official… In my articles I write “war situation”. I always try to find the right word. I know it is a war but if I don’t actually see soldiers wearing Russian uniforms in Ukraine, I just can’t use the word “war”. In my opinion, the best way to be objective is to cover both sides.”
“I can’t use words to describe things I don’t actually see on the field. I don’t use the word “war” although I perfectly know it is war.” I use “a war wituation” to be more objective.”
About meeting Russian journalists
“Last summer I was in Donetsk in a dangerous area: even the ambulances didn’t want to go there. I was talking to some injured people gathered in a small church when another bomb fell right next to us.
A Russian journalist came to us and asked if she could interview me. I refused and I noticed that she was escorted and controlled by Russian servicemen and they call it “embedded journalism” but the servicemen actually control journalists. In France, you can be embedded with soldiers only to go on the front lines but this journalist was controlled by the army. Freedom of expression in Russia doesn’t exist.
“Russian journalists are escorted by servicemen who control them on the field. Freedom of expression in Russia does not exist”
© Alvaro Canovas for Paris Match