• French journalist Olivier Dubois, who works with our newspaper Libération, was released on 20 March after 711 long days in captivity.

    711 days since he was kidnapped by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM, in Arabic) while he was reporting from Gao, in northern Mali.

    711 days that he was held hostage somewhere in the Sahel region. 711 days that he was the only known French hostage in the world. 711 days that this father of two missed his family, his friends, and his colleagues. 711 days that journalism missed him.

    711 days of silence, fear and hope. 711 days too many.

    Based in Gaziantep,Turkey, Hakim Khaldi is the head of studies for the Middle East zone in the French NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, which is responding to humanitarian needs in northern Syria after the earthquake killed more than 37,000 people in the region, including more than 3500 in Syria.

    What are the current needs in Syria?
    On the medical side, there are needs at all levels. The majority of people living in the Idlib area are displaced, even multiple-displaced. When the earthquake happened on Monday (6 February), a lot of people flocked to the hospitals. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has one of the few burn hospitals in the opposition areas. We had to donate equipment, vehicles and medical teams to the affected areas. Border hospitals do not have the capacity to treat Syrians, many of whom are seriously injured, and most [nearby] Turkish hospitals have been destroyed or damaged. The current situation takes us back five years. There are even fewer hard buildings available and even more people living in tents.

    Syria is a country at war and many States do not recognise the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. How does this complicate the delivery of humanitarian aid?
    There are two main complexities. The first is that Syria is a country at war. The second is that Western countries cannot send bilateral aid because of US sanctions. In Turkey, on the other hand, aid has been sent by several states, including France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, they cannot land a humanitarian plane in Damascus or Aleppo. They are therefore dependent on border countries to deliver aid.

    Is this also complex because the region of Idlib, the last enclave of the Syrian opposition, is beyond the control of the regime?
    The regime does not provide any aid there. In northern Syria, the population is dependent on the international border crossing Bab al-Hawa, on the Syrian-Turkish border. The absence of bilateral aid has major consequences for MSF: our emergency stock is empty. We have to ask for emergency orders, but it takes time, since Turkey is itself affected by the earthquake. Since 2014, a UN resolution has renewed the Bab al-Hawa corridor every six months, which complicates the continuity of the healthcare system.

    “Was the glacier white? And how was skiing on snow?” This is the question posed by a child from the future, in a tweet by Anne-Sophie Barthet, a member of the French alpine ski team.

    This high-level athlete was training on the Tignes glacier, at an altitude of 3,100 meters, when she posted this sad observation on Twitter in 2018, to alert people to the damage by climate change on the mountains.

    Five years later, the projected scenario has become a reality. The mild temperatures and lack of snow on French peaks are disrupting the organisation of several competitions and sporting events.

    In the Alps, the Tignes station was forced to cancel the “Andros Trophy”, a car race on ice, in January. In the Contamines, along the Swiss border, the telemark World Cup has been postponed until February.

    These warm conditions in turn have created a growing movement among professional winter sports athletes. A campaign called “Athletes in Action” has been created to elevate climate change solutions.

    Daria remembers the night of 23 February as if it were yesterday. The 29-year-old film producer was sleeping in her spacious Kyiv apartment with the window open when sirens sounded. “I was annoyed because I thought it was a car alarm,” she says.

    “I turned on my cell phone and my mother had posted a message on the family group in WhatsApp. ‘It’s started’, she said.” The first explosions struck the Ukrainian capital. “I was shocked, paralyzed. I took refuge in a shelter. I thought I would stay there for twenty minutes, but I spent two weeks without going outside,” adds Daria.

    The Russian invasion triggered a trauma for her. “I started to feel very bad. I couldn’t sleep. I told myself that I had no choice but to leave.” On 18 March, Daria left Kyiv in a hurry with a small bag, “like a refugee”. Her destinations were Warsaw, then Geneva, then Paris. She had already studied cinema for five years in the French capital, and joined tens of thousands of Ukrainians who found refuge in France.

    Daria put her bags down at a friend’s house, in the lively Buttes-Chaumont neighborhood.’For the first few days, she managed to rest a little. Her big blue eyes were tired from sleepless nights spent collecting money for the war effort or in the kitchens, where she prepared meals for Ukrainian soldiers.

    But even in Paris, something seemed wrong. Despite her friends’ support, Daria felt alone in her struggle. “When I arrived, I found it hard to see people happy, to be in a country at peace when mine was at war,” she says. Daria tried by all means to inform the French about the situation in Ukraine.

    She participated in all the demonstrations, organized solidarity dinners, and covered herself with fake blood to try to alert the population. She never went out without her Ukrainian flag, which she tied on her shoulders. “I recreated the atmosphere of wartime kitchens in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. [To raise money for the war effort] We prepared 1,000 meals for the locals, but sold only 50 of them. I was really disappointed. French people don’t understand that Ukrainians are fighting to protect the rest of Europe,” she says.

    On 19 May, Daria made a radical decision: she returned to Ukraine, even if this possibly meant losing her life. She needed to find her friends, her family and be among those “who know what war is”. On her way back, where I joined her, her emotions changed from laughter to tears. On the train between Poland and Ukraine, she could no longer hold back her emotions: “It’s over, I’m going home,” she said, before bursting into tears. Her smile widened as she moved closer to home.

    Now the country is chaotic. In most cities, anti-bombing sirens still wail several times a day. In Kyiv, it is possible to have brunch on the terrace of a trendy restaurant down the street from military funerals. But the young producer knows that she’s not alone. More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have returned home since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Six months later, Daria has no regrets. She tells me that she will stay in Ukraine “until the victory”.

    In France, only 3.6% of television news was devoted to EU-specific topics between 2015 and 2020, according to a recent study by the French think-tank Jean Jaurès. By comparison, the EU average in 2018 was 13%. 

    The French figure drops further, to 2.5%, if we remove from the panel the public Franco-German channel “Arte”, which was founded in 1991 “to address cosmopolitan and curious citizens in Europe, especially in France and Germany”.

    More than three decades later, European news and public discourse still seem to be ‘niche’ in French television programming.