Margaux Benn : debating the safety of reporters in crisis areas

A Sciences Po Paris alumni, Margaux Benn is an international reporter at the French newspaper Le Figaro. She has covered the conflict in Afghanistan for nearly four years.

By Théodore AZOUZE and Margaux BALTUS

Margaux Benn (left) and Alice Antheaume. ©BenoîtDucrocq
  • « Being a foreigner in Afghanistan is not really a luxury, but it implies quite a few advantages over local journalists. »
  • « A location tracker for journalists can be very useful. But it can also be misinterpreted if discovered. »
  • « In Afghanistan, the authorities can also spread fake news. »

Winner of this year’s Bayeux Prize for war correspondents, Margaux Benn is a senior reporter at Le Figaro. She has covered the conflict in Afghanistan for four years. From this experience, she draws several conclusions, starting with the importance of security on the ground. For her, being a foreigner is an advantage on the field. « Local journalists can be subject to more pressure, especially with their relatives, who can be threatened, » she said.

Many newspapers have taken measures to protect journalists sent to war zones. For example, « at France 24, there is a safety officer who gives the green light for an assignment on the field. » Another alternative is to have a location tracker that allows the journalist to be followed in real time by the newsroom. But this method is still a matter for debate, explains Margaux Benn: « It can be very useful, especially in case of kidnapping, but it can also be misinterpreted by certain actors if it is discovered. I make sure that it is always visible, that no one thinks I am hiding something. »

There are other issues for war reporters. One of them is the veracity of the information gathered on the field. « You always have to check and double-check everything, by cross-checking sources, » because in these countries, explains Margaux Benn, even official contacts can spread fake news.

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