French reporter ‘paid with his life’ for reliable Ukraine war coverage

French reporter Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff
French reporter Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff ... target of Russian propaganda after his death. Image: RSF

Pacific Media Watch

Appalled by French reporter Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff’s death in Ukraine on Monday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

At the same time, RSF is stepping up its efforts to provide the best possible protection for journalists in the field.

It says that with the Kremlin “working tirelessly to spread its propaganda” about the war, journalists are needed for verified and independent information.

A video reporter for the French TV news channel BFMTV, Leclerc-Imhoff is the eighth journalist to be killed in the field in Ukraine since the start of the invasion. His body was reportedly still in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, but was to be transported to Dnipro for a forensic autopsy, according to a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser.

Leclerc-Imhoff’s BFMTV colleague, Maxime Brandstaetter, and their Ukrainian fixer, Oksana Leuta, who were both slightly injured in the shelling that killed Leclerc-Imhoff, are in the process of being evacuated to Dnipro.

Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was sitting at the front of a humanitarian truck in Lysychansk when shrapnel from an exploding shell pierced the truck’s armoured windshield and struck him in the neck.

At the time of his death, he was filming the evacuation of around 10 civilians from the eastern front line to a safer location.

Reliable, honest and independent reporting
“Aged 32, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff paid with his life in the quest for the reliable, honest and independent reporting that is vital for our democracies,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“We are saddened and appalled by this tragedy. RSF asks the Ukrainian authorities to display exemplary transparency and independence with the regard to the investigation by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) into this violation of the rules of war.”

The Kremlin, which has imposed total censorship on freely reported news and information in Russia and the territories its army occupies in Ukraine, used the state news agency TASS to attack Leclerc-Imhoff’s memory.

TASS called him a “mercenary” in the service of “Ukrainian far-right radical forces” in defiance of the facts.

Since the start of the invasion, RSF had already registered 50 events affecting around 120 journalists that qualify as war crimes.

It has just filed its fifth complaint with the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor and with Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, and is continuing to analyse attacks targeting reporters.

Present in Ukraine via its press freedom centres in Kyiv and Lviv, RSF also supplies security gear to news reporters in the field and provides them with safety training and psychological assistance.

The goal is to ensure reliable coverage of the Russian government’s war of aggression and war on information.

Pacific Media Watch collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

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