“I wanted to stop these faces. Give them dignity. More than they already had in the photos of the badges ». There is Gianluca Costantini, a fifty-year-old cartoonist from Ravenna, behind these portraits of the journalists killed and disappeared in Ukraine. A pencil already known to the Italian public for the symbolic drawing of the Amnesty campaign for Patrick Zaki, the activist and student still on trial in Egypt. “The project on the reporters killed around the world started years ago with the non-governmental organization Committee to Protect Journalists. The first one I drew was a Filipino journalist in 2004, then there was Mexico. I have never stopped, I have done hundreds of them ».
The last five are geolocated in Ukraine. “I’m afraid they won’t be the last and this tragic list will be updated,” adds Costantini. His goal, through a sort of “mapping”, is to create “a collective narrative parallel to the daily war news“. Just look at these faces. And read the mini-biographies published on the site (https://www.channeldraw.org/) to better understand what he is saying. The latest is Oksana Baoulina, the Russian journalist of the investigation site The Insider killed in Kiev eight days ago “by a kamikaze drone”, as reported by Reporters Without Borders. She was surgically shot while she was documenting the missile attack a few hours earlier on a shopping mall.
There are also two war veterans from Fox News: cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, and Ukrainian journalist Alexandra Kuvshynova, aka Sasha, just 24. The vehicle in which they were traveling on the outskirts of Kiev was hit by gunfire. And then the American journalist Brent Renaud, killed in Irpin (“I knew him – says Costantini -. He had also been to Libya and I had seen his films to document me for my book on the North African country”). Without forgetting Viktor Dedov, who died in the rubble of his house in the martyr city of Mariupol. And finally, what is perhaps the first fallen reporter of this war: Evgueni Sakoun killed in the missile attack on the tower of the television station (Kyiv Live Tv) where he worked.
It’s not over. Although the official account speaks of five dead reporters, the Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova specified that “since the beginning of the war at least 12 journalists have been killed, at least six kidnapped and another 10 injured”. Collateral victims. It matters little if the 1949 Geneva Convention explains that “journalists who carry out professional missions in war zones are regarded as civilians and protected as such.” There are those who prefer to consider them as targets, targets to be eliminated. “It is no coincidence that those who want to testify to what is happening are hit”, comments Costantini. “In a war, it is the reporters who risk their lives on the ground that make the difference.”
Not a new story, even in Ukraine. Come to think of it, one of the first reporters killed in this war was an Italian: his name was Andy Rocchelli and on 24 May 2014, near Sloviansk (Donbass region) he was killed with the Russian activist Andrei Mironov by mortar grenades. For eight years his parents – Elisa Signori and Rino Rocchelli – have been asking for justice in vain: “It is not just a private matter: we must punish those who use violence against journalists who represent a thorn in the side of those who perpetuate persecution and discrimination”. And it is no coincidence that those who, in the words of the writer Jonathan Littel, know how to “read conflicts” end up in the sights.