Coming up

Don't miss




Kenya : Police arrest 8 over Mombasa rampage

Read more


Overfishing and the global appetite for bluefin tuna: can Tokyo turn the tide?

Read more


Too many graphic images from Gaza ?

Read more


Who's next in Paris, an event with international ready-to-wear and fashion accessories collections

Read more


Tunisia's Carthage International Festival turns 50

Read more


Muslims and Christians clean up Bangui, and violence spirals out of control in Algeria's Gardaia

Read more


Is there such thing as 'telegenic' victims of war?

Read more


2014-07-22 07:21 IN THE FRENCH PRESS

Read more


Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

Read more

  • A call for harmony in riot-hit ‘Little Jerusalem’ Paris suburb

    Read more

  • Israel identifies ‘missing’ soldier in Gaza

    Read more

  • Hollande says French warship delivery will ‘depend on Russia’s attitude’

    Read more

  • Colombia's Rodriguez signs '€80m' contract with Real Madrid

    Read more

  • French Jews mourn French-Israeli soldier killed in Gaza

    Read more

  • Ukraine rebels release bodies, black boxes from flight MH17

    Read more

  • Widodo poised to become Indonesian president

    Read more

  • An ‘explosion of violence’: French press reacts to Gaza protests

    Read more

  • Notorious ‘VIP’ prison in Paris closed for renovations

    Read more

  • Christians in Iraq's Mosul face execution or exodus

    Read more

  • Scores killed as Libyan militias fight over airport

    Read more

  • Ukraine football players refuse to return home after friendly in France

    Read more

  • China steps up communist education to guard against ‘moral decline’

    Read more

  • French rugby stars attacked with machetes and swords

    Read more


Journalists return to France after 18 months in captivity

Video by William EDWARDS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-06-30

Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier have arrived back on French soil after 18 months captivity in Afghanistan. The pair were greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the First Lady.

Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier knew that freedom was coming when the Taliban showed them a set of spotless white robes and told them to put them on.

“They had always told us that when we were released we would be given immaculate white clothes,” an emotional Ghesquière told reporters at the Villacoublay military airbase near Versailles, south west of Paris, where the pair were reunited with their families on Thursday.

"We had to be strong", says Herve Ghesquiere

Taponier, a cameraman, and reporter Ghesquière for state TV channel France 3, were captured in late 2009 while filming in the mountains of Kapisa, an unstable region east of the Afghan capital Kabul.

Their interpreter Reza Din was released on Wednesday along with the two Frenchmen. Two other Afghans, a fixer and a driver, had been released previously.

Harsh mountain conditions

Addressing the press shortly after being greeted by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Ghesquière and Taponier described their 18-month ordeal.

Both said they were in good health and happy to be home, despite being locked up for more than 23 hours a day for 18 months.

The biggest threat to their health had been boredom - which they dealt with through physical exercise “to reduce stress”, talking with their captors and by listening to the radio.

The pair reported that they had not beaten or mistreated, although the harsh mountain conditions did take their toll. The food – typical Afghan mountain fare – was barely adequate.

But perhaps the most difficult aspect was their separation from each other – Ghesquière said that he spent eight months of his confinement entirely alone.

They were reunited for the final five months of their ordeal. Together they were able to keep each other’s spirits up in an environment where neither had a clue when, or if, they would be released.

“We knew that there would be a happy ending,” said Taponier.

‘An explosion of joy’

The news of Taponier and Ghesquière’s imminent return broke on Wednesday as supporters gathered in central Paris to mark their 18 months in captivity and to call for the hostages’ release.

Toward the end of the rally, as people were dispersing, senior editors at France 3 told the crowd that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had called the captives’ families to say that they were coming home.

“There was an explosion of joy,” reported FRANCE 24’s Mathieu Mabin from the scene.
Since their capture, posters of the two men have adorned public buildings across Paris, as well as in the two men’s hometowns of Bordeaux and Nantes.

Key anniversaries in their detention were marked with rallies and concerts in a bid to maintain awareness of their plight and to pressure the government into securing their release.

Ghesquière and Taponier’s 18-month captivity was the longest period of detention of a French journalist in the field since the Lebanese Civil War during the late 1980’s.

News of their release is being given blanket coverage by French networks – but this was not the case in the immediate aftermath of their capture.

For a mixture of political reasons and concerns for their safety, a media blackout was imposed in the first months of their captivity.

State-owned France 3, the journalist’s employers, took three months to release their names, while the French government’s initial response was to criticise the irresponsibility of journalists taking risks for “scoops”.

'So harshly and unjustly detained'
It wasn’t until the captors released a video of the two men calling for Taliban fighters to be released from Afghan and coalition custody were made public that the government softened its tone and supported calls across the media for their release.

‘No ransom paid’

Earlier in 2011, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who has since been killed by a US mission in central Pakistan, warned France that the release of the two men would depend on France withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Sarkozy announced last week that French troops would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of the year in line with planned US pullouts announced by US President Barack Obama.

It is unlikely that the details of any negotiation between the Taliban and the French government will be divulged, but French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé insisted that France “does not pay ransom” for hostages. 


Date created : 2011-06-30


    To publicise or not: Handling a hostage crisis

    Read more


    Timeline of a captivity: French journalists held in Afghanistan

    Read more


    Relief comes amid questions as French journalists are finally released

    Read more