Christian Chesnot

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UNI-Presse Association

Offering more than 600 French publications covering all specialties, the UNI-Presse Association introduces million of Francophones to the richness and variety of the French press and thereby contributes to the spread of French culture and language. Each year the agency participates in numerous book fairs. It is also present, along with the Bureau International de l’Edition Française (BIEF), at international events, such as “Book America,” and organizes events as part of the network of French cooperation abroad. 

The Speaker

Christian Chesnot, a journalist for Radio France Internationale, graduated from the Centre de Formation des Journalistes. In the late 1980s, he was assigned as a volunteer in Egypt –  in lieu of military service – for the French-language daily Le Progrès égyptien. He then stayed on in Cairo to work as a correspondent for several French newspapers.

Along with his coworker, Georges Malbrunot, and their Syrian driver, Mohamed Al-Joundi, Chesnot was kidnapped by Islamic forces in Iraq on August 20, 2004.  He was held in detention for 124 days and was finally liberated on December 21, 2004. In bargaining for his release, the kidnappers gave the French government an ultimatum: revoke the law on laïcité within 48 hours.

Christian Chesnot has published numerous works, including La Bataille de l'eau au Proche-Orient (L’Harmattan, 1993); Palestiniens 1948-1998 : Génération fedayin, de la lutte armée à l'autonomie (Autrement, 1998) ;  L’Irak de Saddam, portrait total (Editions 1, 2003); Les Années Saddam  (Fayard, 2003); Mémoires d'otages (Calmann-Levy, 2005).


New questions in the East: challenges and important players
How should we interpret events in the Middle East? Not so long ago, it was relatively simple, based primarily on the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Cold War. Today, that perspective is no longer valid.
New dynamics are unfolding: the war on terrorism launched after September 11th  and the corollary Greater Middle East Partnership initiated by President Bush, new Iranian aspirations, the exacerbation of civil tensions (notably between Sunnis and Shiites), and the increasing strength of Islamist movements.
So many new fault lines in one region where conflicts are not only uncontrolled, but also interconnected, increasing, and worsening. The perception of the West, and principally of the United States, is hotly contested in the region. There is added tension relayed by new players, such as Arab satellite television chains.
This lecture will be an opportunity to use specific examples to decipher this new emerging Middle East, and to sketch out possible future scenarios.

Journalists in high risk zones: balancing safety and information
More than ever, the information war has become strategic for the warring parties, whether they are traditional armies or armed groups. In these conflicts, journalists have long benefited from a sort of immunity, which is no longer the case. Today, there are more and more examples of journalists being kidnapped, threatened, and sometimes.
In such conditions, how is one able to do one’s job? Is information worth all of these risks? How can a journalist protect him or herself?  Where do you draw the line between reporting on the ground and the safety of journalists?
Christian Chesnot will address these questions and attempt to respond based on his personal experience.

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