Inside the minds of Radio-Canada foreign correspondents | Live from the world

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In the minds of Radio-Canada's foreign correspondents | Live from around the world

Radio-Canada's journalists abroad tell behind the scenes of their profession.

How to work in a hostile zone? Can we remain neutral in the face of danger or distress? How to cover the effects of climate change or the repeated tragedies in the United States, the spread of disinformation or the decline of women's rights in the world? Here are some of the questions facing our correspondents Marie-Eve Bédard, Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair, Tamara Alteresco, Philippe Leblanc, Azeb Wolde-Giorghis and Frédéric Arnould.

C& #x27;is the conflict that dominated the year 2022 and whose repercussions were felt all over the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 affected the work of most Radio-Canada correspondents, particularly in Europe.

This war, as Marie-Eve Bédard recalls, had been underway since 2014, particularly in eastern Ukraine where she covered the bombings before the invasion of the Russian army. She was able to travel to kyiv shortly before Vladimir Putin's troops entered the country.

One ​​of the biggest fears as a journalist is not not be in the right place at the right time. And in a country like Ukraine, which is still quite large, it can be a source of quite significant anxiety, she says.

Tamara Alteresco was based in Moscow for a long time before the Radio-Canada office there closed in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Tamara Alteresco was on the other side of the border, on the Russian side, three months before Vladimir Putin's decision to close the Radio-Canada office in Moscow.

We had spent the week before the invasion at the border and we knew not to move from there because we saw the images of the tanks and tens of thousands of soldiers deployed, she recalls. We don't want to believe it until it happens. We always tell ourselves that there will be some negotiation.

“I was at the hotel, we were expecting a speech from Vladimir Putin. […] At that time we received a message announcing the closure of the airspace and I think that after that we have not stopped since. »

— Tamara Alteresco

Philippe Leblanc, meanwhile, traveled to Lviv, in western Ukraine, a city that has become a hub for the displaced. I saw mutual aid, the first resistance movements where people helped the [Ukrainian] soldiers on the front by bringing them food. Everyone was trying to do their part in their own way.

Philippe Leblanc, correspondent in Asia.

Several of these refugees fled to Poland, a neighboring country where Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair was staying, who underlines the importance of the repercussions of this war which are still felt today in Europe. One of the scenes that marked her the most was that of the trains transporting migrants fleeing the conflict: it was the kind of scene that one would not have thought possible in Europe at that time.

< p class="e-p">From the United States to Ukraine, via Afghanistan, the coverage of violence in all its forms occupies a large part of the work of foreign correspondents. What are the logistical challenges they face when traveling in hostile areas and how do they prepare for the dangers?

Marie-Eve Bédard has covered many subjects in perilous areas in the Middle East and Asia.

Accepting to take the risk is something you do even before leaving, explains Marie-Eve Bédard who, before being a correspondent in Europe, was based in the Middle East where she covered several armed conflicts. .

“The first concern is always safety, we make sure we have equipment like helmets , bulletproof vests, satellite phones because we don't know if the telecommunications will last or not. »

— Marie-Eve Bédard

Sometimes we are over-prepared, but at least we don't miss anything, she continues, claiming to rely on security advisers who can identify certain dangers more easily than us.

Tamara Alteresco, meanwhile, concedes that the fear is there. I have much less experience in a war zone than Marie-Eve, it was almost a baptism for me. […] I saw it less well, but there is no panic. There's instinct, we know what to do, we stay calm and that's what saves us in most situations.

Having been based in Moscow, she and her team have witnessed first-hand the impact of Western sanctions on Russia.

From one day to the next, our situation […] changed dramatically, she says. We don't use ATM cards [in Russia], everything is paid through [the mobile application] Apple Pay which has been banned. So we couldn't even go to the grocery store or the gas station to pay for gas. Money could no longer be transferred from Montreal to Russia. We had prepared for it, but we couldn't stay for weeks and weeks in Russia once the sanctions were announced.

The United States has been grappling with an escalating spike in gun violence for several years, with more than 600 shootings recorded each year since 2020. One of the deadliest killings took place last May at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 22 people, including 19 children. A massacre that Frédéric Arnould covered.

When there is a man equipped with a military rifle who shoots children at point-blank range […] it is always appalling. We tell ourselves each time that it will change, but nothing changes, he says.

“When I cover such an event I cannot ignore my own situation: I live in the United States, I have two young children who go to school on American soil […] It immerses us in the possibility that it happens to us too. »

— Frédéric Arnould

Unlike war zones, he said, there is an unpredictability that is still pervasive about violence in the United States: you can go to the grocery store, you can go to school, and you can go shopping. fresh from a stray bullet […], but it's part of our job to raise awareness about these shootings.

Journalist Azeb Wolde-Giorghis.

Same reality for Azeb Wolde-Giorghis, whose son took part in mock school shootings. What is terrible in the United States is that the violence does not end, it is there every day and the paradox is that after a shooting, people buy weapons to protect themselves. […] There is this feeling of helplessness.

Young girls sold by their parents in Afghanistan, children detained on the border between the United States and Mexico, Ukrainian orphans fleeing the war in Ukraine… Radio-Canada's foreign correspondents have been confronted with several situations of human distress. But how to remain neutral in the face of such situations?

What is happening in Afghanistan is trying, underlines Marie-Eve Bédard who has visited the country several times over the past 20 years . Since his last report in the country in June 2022, on Afghan families reduced to selling their daughters in marriage, his name and that of cameraman Sergio Santos have found themselves on a list allegedly coming from the Taliban intelligence services of people to arrest and to murder.

As a Western woman, it's shocking to see parents selling their little girls, she says, but if you do this job, you have to have a lot of empathy for people. I can't put myself in the shoes of these families, I've never known their realities, and I can't even imagine it.

Frédéric Arnould, correspondent in the United States.

On the other side of the planet, Frédéric Arnould covered the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border, a crisis that continues with the ever-increasing influx of people seeking a life in the States. -United. In particular, he went to a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, where there were hundreds of migrants huddled together for six months, a year, or more and who were living in obviously very precarious conditions.

< p class="e-p"> It is sure that we are upset humanly, he says. One can only be moved when a 5-year-old boy takes my hand and asks me to play with him, telling me that he would like to come see me in the United States. But at the same time we are powerless because we can't do anything.

Called to travel the world, foreign correspondents also witness the impacts of climate change and the significant increase in the number of extreme weather events.

For Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair, one of the most striking reports on the effects of climate change is that on the melting of glaciers in Switzerland, produced this fall. Switzerland has lost 6% of the total area of ​​its glaciers and it is clearly visible on the ground, he says. There have been so many other examples this year, like extreme heat in Europe.

“It was the hottest year on record in France. The fight against climate change is a subject that is really at the heart of concerns in Europe. »

— Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair, correspondent in Europe.

Azeb Wolde-Giorghis cites Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the United States whose level has dropped dramatically while 40 million people depend on him in seven states, including Arizona, California and Nevada.

What's quite incredible is that you can see the water level dropping […], but you get the impression that there is a kind of denial among people [ …] who want to keep watering their lawn even if there is no more water, she explains.

“There is a climate emergency, there will be more and more extreme weather events, we can see it, we have felt it a lot in Arizona and Nevada. »

— Azeb Wolde-Giorghis

For his part, Philippe Leblanc says he was more focused on solutions, especially in the streets of Taipei in Taiwan, where, every evening, a Beethoven melody resounds as the garbage trucks arrive to encourage citizens to bring their waste themselves.

It's a way to empower them, to make them aware of their own consumption and it shows that we can do something, he says.

“As journalists, it's our job to show the effects of climate change, but also that there are big and small solutions and that we can make a difference. »

— Philippe Leblanc

Find Radio-Canada's foreign correspondents today at the microphone of Midi info host, Alec Castonguay, at the opportunity for a one-of-a-kind radio meeting during which the public will be invited to ask questions. The special will be broadcast from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ICI Première.

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