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Ghislaine Dupont: Africa lover and expert

RFI

Journalist Ghislaine Dupont, a leading reporter on African affairs for FRANCE 24’s sister station Radio France Internationale, was one of two French nationals murdered in northern Mali on Saturday.

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French journalist Ghislaine Dupont, 51, was a key player at Radio France Internationale’s Africa desk.

She covered the continent for the French public broadcaster for more than 25 years, until her death at the hands of kidnappers alongside sound engineer Claude Verlon outside the northern Malian town of Kidal on Saturday.

Her colleagues simply called her “Gigi” or more recently – and jokingly – “Mrs Councillor”, after her promotion to the station’s editorial board in September.

Dupont’s eagerness to put all sides of a story on the air had already driven her and Verlon to Kidal last summer to cover Mali’s presidential elections.

The country was slowly recovering from the MNLA Tuareg rebellion and radical Islamist fighters imposing the partition of the North, prompting a military coup in Bamako.

When elections finally took place in July following a French-led military operation, Dupont wanted to make sure that the people of Kidal, a stronghold of the former rebellion, had their voices heard.

She and Verlon were among the few international journalists to report from the remote, inhospitable town.

Scrutiny of official discourse

Her constant scrutiny of official discourse fed long debates at RFI’s editorial meetings and landed her in trouble more than once.

In 2006, she was deported from the Democratic Republic of Congo before presidential polls even started because the authorities disapproved of her electoral coverage.

She continued to work on the DRC for many years from Paris and her incisive reporting featured highly in the tensions between Paris and Kinshasa, culminating in RFI being banned from broadcasting in the country for over a year.

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Dupont acknowledged that she had become the “bête noire” of President Joseph Kabila and his government.

Yet she was “anything but reckless”, said RFI and FRANCE 24’s President Marie-Christine Saragosse.

In a career that spanned nearly three decades, she also reported from Djibouti, the Ivory Coast and the Ethiopia-Eritrea war.

In a tribute read on the air on Saturday evening, her colleagues described Dupont as “the person to whom many turned for advice or to think about how we cover the news”.

“She was always pushing us to give our best,” said Nicolas Champeaux, one of her colleagues on RFI’s Africa desk.

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