The Network to Help War Correspondents

In order to save the life of Gabriele Micalizzi all that was needed was a simple helmet, the same type that distinguishes a reporter from all of the other individuals who are engaged on a battlefield. The word “Press” written in white on the helmet, is indicative of many things: in primis, that you are here just doing your job, which could be the one you have dreamed about all you life ever since you were a child. The second, that you are there to tell the truth and to immortalize it with crucial images in order to comprehend what a war is like in the middle of a conflict, which over time has come to be seen as something far away and separate from our own daily lives. However, and above all, this helmet allows you to come home, to show that you belong to a category that is always recognised as being part of a large family. The story of Gabriele Micalizzi represents a positive and telling example.

The help offered by groups to maintain the work of journalists

A few hours have passed since the grenade explosion that, in addition to killing a Kurdish soldier in Baghuz, resulted in Gabriele Micalizzi being injured. Our correspondent Fausto Biloslavo was warned by a Brazilian photographer what had happened while he was returning from the Iraqi border. The incident took place in Syria at the hands of the Kurdish militias of the SDF, on a sliver of land where the latter attacked the retreating Islamic State near to the eastern banks of the Euphrates river. Fausto Biloslavo, however, following the message from his Brazilian colleague, then received another message that immediately drew his attention: “We are from the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), we want to ask for your information regarding the condition of Gabriele and if he needs assistance?” The group in question were offering to help the young injured Italian, putting at his disposal their people and contacts in order to provide him help and logistical assistance as soon as possible.

This is a demonstration of how, when confronted with the danger of debris ricocheting off your helmet, you will always find a group of colleagues and journalists ready to help. Even still, the past few years have been characterised by a growing number of deceased reporters. The collective Cesura, which Micalizzi works for, knows something about this: in 2014, photographer Andrea Rocchelli was killed in the Ukraine while working to record the events taking place in Donbass. All over the world, far too often, journalists are being killed: in war and in our own country, while crouch in the trenches as well as in there own houses, while filming a conflict and at the same time trying to shed light on criminal affairs. The CPJ was founded with the intent of helping reporters and journalists in difficulty in every corner of the world.

This is why on Manhattan’s 7th avenue, where the head of this organisation is based, they are trying as quickly as possible to get in touch with the Italian photographer injured during the most recent battle of the caliphate. The work of the CPJ has gone on for more than three years and has managed to contain various situations around the world, through their 14 offices spread across five continents. In Europe these offices are based in London and Brussels, but there are other bases found in some of the most dangerous parts of the planet. In Istanbul, where Turkey has not always maintained even the most basic standards for the respect of professional journalism, and in a city where, in the middle of the Saudi Arabian consulate, on the 2nd of October journalist Jamal Kashoggi was murdered.

Referring again to our contact Fausto Biloslavo, there are also another two associations: The Rory Peck Trust and the FFR, both based in London. The first is dedicated to Rory Peck, an Irish cameraman killed in Moscow during the 1993 constitutional crisis while trying to film the assaults against the Duma. Since then, the association and its name has been synonymous with various scenarios where journalists work on the front lines and the provision of all kinds of assistance: logistical, legal and even medical when necessary. The FFR instead have been in operation since 2013. An acronym for Frontline Freelance Register, they provide aid to reporters in difficulty. After hearing the news regarding the injuries sustained to Micalizzi, they immediately tried to understand how they could help our fellow countryman. For context, when one of our compatriots gets injured in Syria, this does not go unnoticed. On the contrary, it is a demonstration of how, no matter the difficulty, the helmet with the word “Press” doesn’t protect only your head.

This is a sign for all the world of a family that, from the most experienced to those on their first assignment, will never leave one of its own behind.

The condition of Gabriele Micalizzi

“Within twelve hours, Gabriele was already in Baghdad and undergoing his initial surgery,” speaking with us in the days prior was a representative from Cesura, the collective which works with injured photo reporters. “Until he is back in Italy we do not want to release any official statement – talking again to us from their Cesura base – We can only say that we are cautiously optimistic.” By Saturday, Micalizzi was still in the Iraqi capital, and out of terminal danger and, assuringly, fighting through it. He returned to Italy on Sunday, going straight to the hospital in order to continue his rehabilitation. One of the colleagues of Cesura recounted the events of the prior difficult hours, in which the collective were reminded of the sad events of 2014 when Andrea Rocchelli died in the Ukraine. “We know that his body was taken to Erbil, then Iraqi Kurdistan, and from there was taken to Baghdad: the Kurds and Americans took care of all the various logistical aspects along this journey.”

Founded in 2008, the collective Cesura has always operated in war grounds: “Paradoxically, before we previously were more well known abroad than we are known now in Italy,” says another member of the group. The members of the group are still continuing their work at the various Cesura posts: in the laboratory situated at Pianello Val Tidone it never ends, as they cautiously wait again for when a photojournalist is wounded along the strip of land still under Isis control. Maybe they will bring him that helmet to which he owes his life, ready for him to wear again while filming amongst conflict, once again in danger but never alone.