Witnessing Hostage Liberation, Student Examines What it Means To Be a Journalist

Véronique Belinga is part of a new initiative called LJP Youth. The LJP team has partnered with the Bilingual School of Marcq-en-Baroeul, a high school in Lille, France, to create a space for young, aspiring journalists to comment on the world around them. We hope you enjoy what they have to say.

By Véronique Belinga

In an effort to remember the past when the world is looking to the future in the form of countless New Years Resolutions, Radio France dedicated its Jan. 6 evening broadcast to support and remember four hostages abducted in northern Syria seven months ago —Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torres.

Since 2011, Syria has spiraled deeper and deeper into an ever-more violent civil war. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists — a nonprofit founded to encourage worldwide press freedom — 29 journalists were killed in Syria in 2013, making 63 the total number of people who have died covering the conflict since it began. Approximately 60 journalists were abducted in Syria in 2013 and by the end of the year at least 30 remained missing.

However, the end of 2013 not only marked alarmingly grave statistics but positive changes as well. The Nigerian terrorist group, Boko-Haram, liberated French priest Georges Vandenbeusch, who was captured on Nov. 14 in Northern Cameroon. The forty-two year old priest was immediately escorted back to France.

Earlier last year, a French family of seven was taken hostage in the same area, also by Boko-Haram, while visiting the national park of Waza, near the Cameroon-Nigeria border. The family, including three adults and four children younger than twelve years old, were liberated on Apr. 19 and repatriated to France the same day.

Unlike the situation surrounding the family’s liberation, the priest was released without any official ransom demanded from Boko-Haram.

As a Cameroonian, I felt fortunate to witness the priest Vandenbeusch’s liberation from a Cameroonian perspective, as I was in the country at that time. And my father greeted him before his departure back to Yaoundé. Cameroonian citizens felt it was crucial that Georges Vandenbeusch safely make it back to France. Before that moment, I had not fully realized the consequences for Cameroon had he not been liberated or had he been killed. Cameroonians on the whole seemed grateful at the news of Vandenbeusch’s release and felt that the event was an positive start to the new year.I was obviously relieved as well, but being in Cameroon made the risk to journalists and others much more real. It also opened my eyes to the fact that it was not just citizens of the hostages’ home country who are affected, but the country where the abduction took place is very much affected too.

It is hard not to be removed from the numbers when we get more reports from places like Syria every day that more hostages — journalists or others — have been taken. We need to show support to the hostages and their families, but how do you do that when all we get seems to be statistics?

Journalism is very risky. In order to retrieve the most outstanding stories, sometimes you must go to the most dangerous places. Being exposed to such danger has become part of the job. As for the numerous abductions northern Cameroon: as a Cameroonian, I feel no resent for Nigeria. They were instrumental in Vandenbeusch’s release.  But the event did change my outlook on the career I want to pursue. Maybe the best way to honor these kidnappings as events happening to real people instead of merely numbers is to commit to becoming a journalist rather than shy away from it.

If we all turned away because it was too dangerous or too scary, we would never know what is happening around the world and there would be no record for the history books. To me, that sounds like the opposite of what we should be doing in response to these crises.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Witnessing hostage liberation, student examines what it means to be a journalist. In an effort to remember the past when the world is looking to the future in the form of countless New Year’s Resolutions, Radio France dedicated its Jan. 6 evening broadcast to support and remember four hostages abducted in northern Syria seven months ago —Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, and Pierre Torres. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: