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France opens judicial investigation into journalist's death in Ukraine
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France opens judicial investigation into journalist’s death in Ukraine

A judicial investigation will be opened in France to probe the death of a French-Irish journalist at the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday.

Pierre Zakrzewski, a journalist with the American outlet Fox News, was killed March 14, 2022, in Ukraine while covering the beginning of the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova, who was working as a fixer for Fox News, was killed in the same incident. Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was seriously injured.

Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova are among 11 journalists who have been killed in Ukraine since the February 2022 Russian invasion.

“My colleagues died next to me that day, and I was badly injured. But more importantly than ever, I know that journalism is of such importance that it wills you to keep going on,” Hall previously told VOA.

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On Wednesday, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office, or PNAT, announced the opening of a judicial investigation into Zakrzewski’s death.

Zakrzewski’s family welcomed the development.

“Pierre used his lens to ensure people’s stories were told with clarity and truth, no matter how difficult or how dangerous. ⁠We are very grateful to all those who have supported and helped us in our continuing fight to uncover the truth regarding what happened to Pierre,” the reporter’s wife, Michelle Ross-Stanton, said in a statement.

A preliminary investigation was launched by PNAT two days after Zakrzewski’s death. That initial phase concluded earlier this month, at which time the office requested the opening of a judicial investigation for war crimes.

Clémence Witt and Anaïs Sarron, the lawyers for Zakrzewski’s family, welcomed the beginning of the new phase of the investigation.

“This second phase, the appointment of investigating judges will allow his relatives to become civil parties and to participate more actively in the ongoing investigations,” they said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, said this development is an important step toward fighting impunity in crimes committed against journalists.

“When international judicial cooperation on the ground is effective, the capacity of the French justice system to move forward quickly given the context of war makes it possible to fight effectively against impunity,” RSF’s lawyer Emmanuel Daoud said in a statement.

Impunity continues to be a threat to journalists globally. Nearly 80% of the journalist killings around the world over the past decade remain unsolved, according to a 2023 report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

VOA’s Cristina Caicedo Smit contributed to this report.