Bayeux Prize for war correspondents: Ukraine, media epicenter

February 24, 2022. To the column of tanks heading towards kyiv was quickly added the cohort of journalists who came to cover the conflict. Media epicenter of a war scrutinized by the entire planet, several cities of the country have become anthills teeming with war reporters. Seasoned or neophytes, there were more than 2,000 on the spot at the start of the conflict, according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders. Aris Messinis, AFP’s chief photojournalist in Athens, traveled to Ukraine to cover the events. After twenty years of experience, including ten spent covering conflict zones, he is categorical: ” This is for sure the biggest gathering of journalists I have seen in my career. »

eight years of war

This 2022 edition of the Bayeux Prize is marked by the return of a high-intensity war on European soil and the fierce information war that results from it. Loup Bureau, a 32-year-old French journalist and director, presents his documentary entitled Trench. Shot in 2020 on the front line in the Donbass region, the film exposes the daily life of the soldiers of the 30e battalion of the Ukrainian army in the latent war which opposes them to the separatist forces supported by Moscow.

For the director, it is regrettable that it had to come to ” total war” to get the Western media interested again in this conflict that began in 2014 with the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia. “What is essential to remind public opinion is that Ukrainian society has been living at war for eight years. On this side I find that there was a media failure upstream of the Russian invasion. »

Telling the everyday

Telling the story of Ukrainian society is what Chloé Sharrock, photojournalist for The world and Release, for his first experience in a war zone. Aged 30, she arrived in Ukraine in February 2022. “War reporter is a simplistic term. Beyond the fighting, the impact of the war effort on civilians is essential to understanding the essence of a conflict. » Through her lens, the photojournalist also wants to capture “physical and gender-based violence” generated by war. ” Conflict is the core of a huge sphere of issues. It is our responsibility to convey this complexity. »

A vision shared by Aris Messinis. ” To keep the audience’s attention, what’s important to bring back are strong personal stories. A good photo is one that awakens the conscience of the person looking at it. » Winner of the Bayeux-Calvados prize in 2012 for his coverage of the Libyan conflict, he insists on the need ” put aside your own emotions in order to capture the present moment in the most objective way possible. ” It’s paradoxical, but sometimes you have to be like a stone to transcribe the intensity of a moment as accurately as possible”.

Guarantee your safety

The quest for the photo that will stop the war invites risk-taking. At 45, Aris Messinis refuses to consider himself experienced. ” In war there is no experience. All conflict zones and armies are different. Going there thinking you know what to expect puts you at risk of going over the red line. This limit not to be exceeded animates the informal discussions between reporters in the streets of Bayeux.

In a conflict zone, the journalist is a stranger and also a potential target. The smooth running of his reports depends on his “fixer”. At the same time interpreter, guide and intermediary, he allows the reporter to access the areas they wish to cover. In fact, its reliability is essential for the safety of the journalist. ” A good fixer can save your life, a bad one can kill you. formulates Aris Messinis curtly. But security comes at a price. In Ukraine, according to the AFP reporter, a “fixer” costs around 500 dollars a day. In a city like Mosul, Iraq, prices can go up to $1,000. For local people “war is also a time to make money, not necessarily friends », summarizes the photoreporter.


Since 1994, the city of Bayeux, in Calvados, has hosted the international prize for war correspondents. The opportunity for journalists from all over the world to meet to exchange around round tables, screenings, and exhibitions. It rewards the best reports in the photo, television, radio and written press categories.

– Evgeniy Maloletka of Associated Press (AP) and Mstyslav Chernov (video image prize) were awarded for their report on the bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol.

– The Ouest-France Jean-Marin prize went to Nicolas Delesalle for Ukraine, the convoy of the last chance, published in Paris Matchtelling the story of a mother having to choose who among her own to send abroad and save.

– In television, Théo Maneval and Pierre Dehoorne received the first Amnesty International prize for Viktor and the Kiss of War in Ukraine, for France 5.

– On the radio side, the international jury awarded the landing committee prize to Maurine Mercier (France Info – RTS), who collected the testimony of a mother and her daughter on “two weeks of rape and terror in Boutcha”.

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