Valérie Gauriat. Credit: Euronews

Valérie Gauriat. Credits: Euronews

Media dialogues: Valérie Gauriat
She is a Senior International Reporter for Euronews, a global television network that provides livestream news. Here are some of her reports from the battlefronts, which many are more than shocking
6 Dec 2023

This article is part of a series of interviews with people who work in the media to provide the news and views that shape our perceptions of world affairs. Valérie Gauriat, from Euronews, spoke to UN Today about her life and career in media.

What is your professional background?

Growing up in different continents planted the seeds of my long-lasting addiction to explore the world’s diversity. Journalism and its many aspects appeared to me as an obvious choice.

I first studied literature, languages and political sciences in France and then opted to study a Master’s degree in international journalism in London.

After interning at The Agence France Presse London Bureau, I started as a Paris correspondent for UK’s Independent Radio News (IRN) and the London Broadcasting Company (LBC), before going into print, working for various European publications. Along the way, I co-authored books on French politics, worked as correspondent for World News Link, a US based agency, before joining a French press agency as head of the economics service.

Chance lured me into television, as producer and researcher for France 3. I missed the thrill of working abroad, which I had taste for in Romania after the fall of Ceaucescu and in South Africa in the aftermath of the apartheid.

I was heading for unknown destinations, until I got a call from Euronews. Its HQ was in France, but I was appealed by the unique blend of multi-cultural, multi-lingual journalists, committed to give audiences across the globe a European perspective on world affairs.

I started on the news desk, then joined the magazine department, and was given the keys to a new international affairs series. I became a reporter and director for all of the channel’s successive feature programmes, and had the privilege to produce hundreds of feature reports worldwide, on a wide range of topics.

From the Balkans to Afghanistan, Africa to the Middle East, Southeast Asia or South America, I documented the strife of communities in many troubled areas, and reported on the struggles of those fighting for human rights from Cuba to Belarus, Tchad to DRC, Iraqi Kurdistan to Eastern Europe, or long-standing conflicts in disputed territories such as Cyprus, South Ossetia or Nagorno-Karabakh.

Covering immigration and human trafficking issues took me to Libya, Niger, Lebanon, and most of Europe’s “hotspots.”

As special correspondent, I covered the 2011 Arab springs, the aftermath of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Israel-Gaza War in 2014, the 2015 Paris terror attacks, the war in Ukraine, and most recently, the Israel-Hamas war.

Valérie Gauriat, covering Irpin in Ukraine – Credit: Euronews.

What’s the best interview you’ve ever done?

This is a hard question to answer since there are so many that are memorable to me, not necessarily involving beholders of power.

I’ve always felt that all interviews conveying the realities of people trusting us with intimate accounts of how the world’s problems affect their daily lives, if not their existence itself, are valuable.

To give one example, I will never forget Masika, a woman who had endured several collective rapes in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, helplessly watched her husband be slaughtered by her tormentors, then devoted her life to saving women who had suffered similar ordeals, and scores of orphans born from mothers who were raped and/or killed by militias, or had died from AIDS.

After I had spent two days with Masika and her adopted community, she told me at length what lay behind her years of struggle for human rights, in the privacy of a tiny dark hut, under unbreathable heat. The way she told her story, in a state of near trance, yet with calm, tears slowly flowing from her eyes, before she fainted into my arms, will stay forever in my memory.

Another memorable interview was with the Dalai Lama. Mixing spirituality with an acute though improbable sense of politics, he first urged the world to improve ties with China, while pushing for democracy and human rights. Questioned on his previous suggestions to move NATO’s HQ to Moscow, or EU institutions to Poland, he elaborated on his belief that welcoming Russia into the European and NATO clubs would ensure peace, and curb the Russian Federation’s inclination towards “the old (Soviet) ways of thinking.” Asked whether compassion, Buddhism’s core value, should apply to terrorism, he stated that while acts should be condemned, “individuals” should not, as “hatred turns one Bin Laden into 100 Bin Ladens”. Meant to last 15 minutes, the interview transformed into a nearly one-hour long half-serious, half-joking discussion over the Dalai Lama’s singular views on the world order. Ending in a final jest, when I asked him about his succession: “If after me, the Lama institution is outdated,” he shrugged, “then it will end in grace, rather than with a possibly much worse reincarnation.”

Valérie Gauriat, covering Be’eri in Israel – Credits: Euronews.

What is the interview you’d like to do but haven’t been able to yet?

I must say that over the years, I have sought to convey the voices of those who seldom, if not never, get a chance to be heard, rather than those whose renown give them unlimited world exposure.

This is a privilege I value, having access to zones and communities which deserve, and need, to be brought to the public eye.

I would be curious however to hear from some of the high-tech tycoons who have immense influence on the pulse of the planet. For instance, how does libertarian entrepreneur Robert Thiel, who stated he “no longer believes that freedom and democracy are compatible,” deem this is actually compatible with his anti-totalitarian stance?

How does Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, racing to colonize space and/or oceans to save the world, propose in the meantime to curb poverty and oppression? How do such visionary digital giants come to terms with the allegations that their empires are also built at the cost of disputable labour practices, and at the expense of democracy or environment? Do they believe these are necessary evils to achieve their vision, as has implied Mark Zuckerberg, stating that Augustus Cesar, his role model, had used a “very harsh approach” to achieve peace?

Valérie Gauriat, “Israel Hamas War: The point of no return?” – Credit: Euronews.

What is your view on the role of media?

I believe that the first role of media is to provide information that is as accurate and verifiable as possible, as honestly as we can. Simple as they may seem, these principles are all the more important that they are challenged by the multiplication of information flows and sources, amplifying the risk of disinformation, in ways that are not always easy to decipher.

For a field reporter like me, it is essential to report the facts that I bear witness to without trying to distort them. A sometimes testing exercise, in contexts such as the Israel-Hamas war, to use one example.

The media’s responsibility to provide trustworthy information, is as great as its power of influence. So is the journalists’ duty to resist attempts from opinion makers to weaponize information, which must more than ever be discerned from propaganda.

Such values cost many people their freedom and sometimes their lives, in many parts of the world. I am not the only one to feel that those of us who are still free to defend those values have a duty to continue doing so.

Valérie Gauriat, transmitting from Polish-Belarus border – Credit: Euronews.

What is your vision of the media 10 years from now?

When I completed my journalism studies, the internet and smartphones did not exist, but there were already predictions that the end of the written press was near.

While the digital revolution and the change in information consumption modes have made the future of print media uncertain, most paper publications have turned digital but the readership and demand for reliable information are still there.

As for television, although its lifespan is often forecasted to be shorter than radio, I do not see it disappearing soon. Networks have taken a digital turn, and TV content is still viewed via interconnecting devices.

Production modes are also changing constantly. I wouldn’t have imagined 10 years ago that I would become a “mojo reporter”, filming reports with an IPhone and a few props, as has been the case these past years. Nor would I have guessed that AI would be able to replace human voices.

But what I can see from our viewership’s feedback, is that while click-and-go viewing habits are widespread, there is still a thirst for meaningful content, with context and perspective.

Technology has not yet tolled the bells of journalism, although the digital revolution has made journalists’ lives extremely challenging. Everyone and anyone can now claim to provide news, or be “a journalist.” And of course, exponential information highways are echoed with exponential disinformation possibilities.

But this is also met with consciousness on the part of the media. Debunking fake news has become a full-time job for the new generation of journalists.

I might be overly optimistic, but I would tend to trust that this same generation, which I often exchange with, will continue to provide reliable information.

It is harder to forecast what impact AI can have on the media given the increasing pace of changes that were inconceivable only 10 years ago.

This clearly carries many risks, globalized thinking not being the least. We can only hope that antidotes and safeguards will develop.

What I find even more worrisome, is the interference of finance in the world of media. It has long existed, but its winds are stronger, often insidiously, as outlets are increasingly dependent on profit-oriented firms or government funding, with a double whammy effect when they go hand in hand. As a result, media independence and journalistic integrity are certainly at threat, and there are many examples of that in Europe and across the world. 

Valérie Gauriat: “Ukraine war: Survivors describe Russian army atrocities in the outskirts of Kyiv” – Credits: Euronews.

Could you share an interesting work-related anecdote?

One of the most memorable happened on a trip to the Ivory Coast. I was documenting the country’s efforts to combat AIDS, when the disease raged throughout the African continent.

I had an appointment with a group of HIV positive or AIDS afflicted women, who had launched an association to support others in similar situations, and fight stigmatization. Something unexpected occurred and the meeting was postponed to the next day. Shortly after we arrived on site, in an isolated street of a forlorn district of Abidjan, we were attacked by a group of armed youths. Holding a gun to my temple, they stole everything they could from everyone, including our camera, before flying off with our car. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

But our hosts, dressed up for the occasion, were robbed of the jewels they were wearing, and the little money they kept on the premises. They were devastated.  What followed was the most extraordinary part of the story. Once the emotions had settled down, we decided together to walk to the nearest police station to file a complaint.

Once it was over, the night was falling; to be safe, we asked police officers to drive us back to the association’s house. On the way, one of the women cried out she had been terrified of being raped by the thugs, then stunned me when she added: “I’m so glad they didn’t, or they could have caught AIDS!”. Once the policemen dropped us off, the head of the association asked them to wait, rushed off to the house, and came back with a basket full of condoms: “stay safe, and keep your women safe!”, she ordered the men, who embarrassedly took her gift and swiftly left. Not only were the women concerned for their tormentors, and the police officers’ health, but they also agreed to meet us again, despite their fear and distress. Thanks to the help of a French TV correspondent, who lent us a spare camera, we continued the shoot, and went back to the association two days later, to film a memorable sequence. Determined to get their message across to the world, these courageous women gave me a lesson in resilience that I will never forget.

* Julián Ginzo is a member of the Editorial Board of UN Today.
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