Until there is evidence to the contrary, nobody knows what has become of Pierre Piccinin. Jean-Pol Hecq
English translation S.L.
You must have heard of Pierre Piccinin, this teacher of History at the Athénée school at Philippeville (Belgium), who spent all the school holidays travelling to war zones like Libya, Yemen, Syria but also Mali, from where he brought back very different pieces of information from what we usually see in the mainstream media.
Pierre Piccinin again took advantage of his availability during his last break at Easter to go back to Syria. He was last heard of on Wednesday 17th April that is to say exactly three weeks ago. Since then, nobody has heard anything from him and from his colleague and friend Domenico Quirico, an Italian jounalist. A week behind schedule, the two men announced that they would go back to Turkey. Nobody knows what has become of them. Like seven other journalists, they disappeared without leaving any clues.
Yesterday, Emma Bonino, the newly appointed Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs suggested that the fact that the Syrian authorities refrained from giving response to the requests of the Italian government wasn’t a good sign.
Pierre Piccinin isn’t a professional reporter but a political scientist and a Historian. He was in these war zones as an observer and developed a passion for the Arab springs and especially for Syria where he went at least 8 times. Out of this, he wrote articles and brought back videos which showed the world the true face of this merciless Civil War. He also wrote a book which has been recently published.
Pierre Piccinin is one of those rare individuals who have empathy. He wants to know and to understand and this is all that motivates him. He casts a clear eye on the horrors of the world and perhaps a bit naively, an eye that captures distress and records sufferings but also attracts sympathy. This is probably what has enabled him until recently to venture into the most dangerous areas of Syria. But during a previous trip, he experienced the harsh reality of Bashar El Assad’s prison. He was wounded and his vision of the conflict was shaken. However, he did not give up his role as a direct witness.
These are precisely the witnesses that certain people want to eliminate. In two years of war, twenty-three journalists and fifty eight “observers-citizens” have been killed in Syria. A frightening figure that reflects how today the action is not limited at all to the military field. This is a total war, a war where all shots are allowed, a war where no one and nothing is spared and where, of course, information is a strategic factor of prime importance.
On Friday, it was the World Press Freedom Day and that day we learnt that an American journalist who went missing in Syria for six months is being held at facility controlled by the Syrian Intelligence Service. It has been now three weeks since Pierre Piccinin and Domenico were last heard of but there is still room for hope. However, other dangers are out there : those of oblivion, trivialization, weariness and cowardice.
Until there is evidence to the contrary, there is one duty that must be respected against all odds : the duty not to give up and not to lose hope.