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French award Honour for former Swiss TV journalist killed in Iraq

Véronique Robert speaking to her lawyer in Dubai in 2007

(Keystone)

Swiss-French journalist Véronique Robert, who died on Saturday after being seriously wounded in Iraq, will be posthumously awarded a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest honour.

The announcement was made Thursday by the Élysée. Robert had been reporting from Iraq on the battle of Mosul for broadcast on the French weekly television show "Envoyé Spécial", on station France 2.

The Swiss-born Robert, who was 54, worked for several media outlets in Switzerland and France, including Marianne, Le Figaro and Paris Match, for whom she had made a series of reports on Iraq. She also worked for Swiss public television RTS in the late 1980s.

An experienced war correspondent, Robert died at a hospital in southwest Paris after being wounded in an explosion in Mosul earlier in the week. She underwent surgery in Iraq before being transferred to Percy hospital in the French capital.

UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, denounced her killing by an explosive device in Mosul.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable, and especially when it is used to silence those who shed light on a society in conflict,” Bokova said earlier this week, in keeping with a resolution adopted by member-nations of the UN agency that condemns violence against journalists.

Veteran reporter

Robert had been one of four journalists accompanying the advance of US-backed Iraqi special forces trying to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group. Their bid to recapture Iraq's second largest city, which has been the Islamic State’s stronghold, was launched more than eight months ago.

She was caught up in the same mine explosion that killed Iraqi journalist Bakhtiyar Haddad and French journalist Stéphane Villeneuve. The fighting has been deadly for Iraqi forces and civilians; the UN estimates IS fighters are holding as many as 100,000 civilians as human shields.

Robert and Villeneuve were working on the report for Envoyé Special. Another journalist, Samuel Forey, who works for Le Figaro, had injuries to his arm and face.

Reporters Without Borders said their deaths bring the number of journalists killed in Iraq since the start of 2014 to 28.

Life's trials

A decade ago, Robert had to contend with the gang rape of one of her sons in Dubai by three United Arab Emirates nationals, one of the suspects being HIV-positive, when he was living there as a 15-year-old Swiss-French teenager. The case led her to launch a public campaign against the authorities and legal system there and raised tensions between France and the Emirates. Her son later left for Switzerland.

The French foreign ministry said it was “extremely saddened” to learn of Robert’s death from wounds in a mine blast near Mosul while reporting for France 2.

“We extend our condolences to her family, especially her children, as well as to the teams of France Télévisions and #5bis Productions, for which she worked. We pay tribute to the courage she showed in covering the battle for Mosul,” the ministry said in a statement.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/jmh

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