France - Mali

Claude Verlon, a field reporter with a meticulous eye

Radio France Internationale journalist and sound engineer Claude Verlon was abducted and killed yesterday in Northern Mali while on assignment with his colleague Ghislaine Dupont.

© Aude Rabillon

Verlon, 58, had long been passionately interested in Africa, and was killed just after interviewing Ambery Ag Rissa, a representative of the Tuareg-led separatist group MNLA.

A gifted sound engineer and a seasoned reporter, Verlon loved a good challenge and his work, which brought him to places including Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, often entailed great peril.

Where it was possible to go he went, and no matter the terrain, Verlon could set up a radio studio – even in a hut or on the top of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. He was known for his meticulous technical eye and caution.

Before setting foot anywhere he’d gauge the situation on the ground. His greatest fear was losing signal on a live report and he would often say, “I don’t have the right to make a mistake.”

His colleagues, who say they will always remember his smile, remarked on his dependability.

"Claude Verlon was a pillar on which we could rely," they agreed unanimously. “Very rigorous, effective, and everyone knew we could count on him in case of trouble.”

Another said he was the Rolls-Royce of technicians.

"Of course if you travel with somebody and you're working quite intensely and sometimes the situation is a little risky then you get close to them," said colleague Tony Cross and editor of the RFI's English service website. "Claude was a very warm person, he had a sense of humour. We went to Lahore in Pakistan together."

Cross said he will always remember travelling to a villa outside of Lahore where they interviewed the patriarch of the clan in charge. To Cross' amazement, Verlon was able to set up a satellite phone from the remote villa as night fell and communicate and send stories back to Paris.

"I'm always amazed when I can look at RFI technicans who can set up a studio in a hotel room or send a message from a mountainside," Cross said. 

Verlon started his career with RFI in 1982 and was a senior sound engineer.

Radio France Internationale expresses condolences to his family and friends.

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