Sylvain Savolainen

Reporter / Photographer

Contributions, documentaries et radio features on the French and Swiss national radios : France Inter, France Culture, Radio Suisse Romande-La Première (RSR), Radio Suisse Romande-Espace 2, France-Bleu Pays de Savoie.

Among other radio features and documentaries:

  • Sierra Leone

    The emerging of international justice (2 h.)

    At the dawn of the 21st century, one of the notions which tends to gradually impose itself is the notion of international justice. Whether it be considered a reference or an object of scorn, international law is becoming a concept that can’t be ignored. Where does Sierra Leone stand in this context?

    Most of the wars being fought today are civil or internal wars. Although conflicts between states are the focus of international relations, they are rare. The war in Sierra Leone started in 1991, and when it ended, officially on 1 January 2002, 200’000 people had been killed, and another 2’000’000 displaced. Eleven years. During these eleven years of conflict, the worst atrocities were committed: campaigns of mass amputations, rape, mutilations, slavery, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those eleven years represent a continuous gush of violence in a country where the resulting wounds and trauma are still terribly present today.

    The fact that the war took place between 1991 and 2002 is far from insignificant. The decade during which Sierra Leone was engulfed in war represents a transition point between two centuries, a passage from the 20th to the 21st century. This conflict is also an illustration of the typical war scenario of our time.

    The Special Court for Sierra Leone, established by Security Council resolution 1315, is competent to judge those who are responsible for the most serious violations of humanitarian law, for crimes against humanity and for violations of the Geneva Conventions during the conflict, especially from 1996 to 2002. The Tribunal is currently examining the main criminals who have been charged by the court, and its prosecutor.

    Ever since its outbreak, the war in Sierra Leone has been the gripping and breathtaking stage for today’s main issues and stakeholders: finance, the trade of natural resources – for instance, the world’s most valued diamonds – US-UK partnership policy, the crisis of the UN, realpolitik, terrorism, and the emerging of modern international justice.

    The diamonds of Sierra Leone are at the heart of the conflict. Diamonds and their international trade are the defining element of this war, from its beginning to its conclusion and aftermath, including the way in which is was conducted.

    This feature examines the emergence of international justice, by looking at the attempt of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to pursue justice in a country torn apart by the brutality and horror of war. This is the story of how justice faces war. It is also the story of a forgotten conflict, an insight into the mechanics of a conflict. And not just any conflict, but the one that bridges two distinct centuries. It tells the story of our time, and of our particular wars.

    • How was the war in Sierra Leone financed?
    • What was the role of diamonds, and generally speaking the diamond trade?
    • What is the impact of civil wars, whether conscious or indirect?
    • What is the role of the ethnic and religious aspect in a conflict? Is it really an engine of war?
    • Why is a country more likely to go to war?
    • Do we know exactly how to stop or fuel a conflict?
    • If there are clearly people who bear responsibilities for the crimes committed, who are those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity?
    • According to which criteria is this determined? And in which manner can they be judged?
  • Echoes of the Spanish Civil War (2 h.)

    Today’s Spain is one of Europe’s most dynamic countries. The word Spain usually brings up memories of Almodovar films, the Galactics of Real Madrid or week-ends in Barcelona. Spain is a modern and progressive country, a country that has legalized same-sex marriage. 80% of the Spanish population voted in favour of the European constitution. But behind the glamour, traumatic memories of a historical past the Spaniards are only beginning to unveil, continue to haunt the country.

    The Spanish civil war and Franquism have gone into the collective memory as major events of 20th century European history. So why should one want to investigate them today? Because today, the memories still come up and the dead have not yet been buried. The Spanish democracy and justice are going to have to face their past and dig out the hidden parts of their history.

    Why does this war seem to us so far away, buried in a past so remote that it almost belongs to a different era? How come our memory fails or remains silent when we look back at this chapter of History? Why is it that today’s Switzerland still refuses to clear the names of the 600 to 800 Swiss citizens who joined the International Brigades to fight against fascism and to defend the democratic values of the second Spanish republic?

    What were the facts of franquism?

    Dozens of thousands of corpses lie in mass graves all over Spain. Since the beginning of the 2000s, only a few bodies have been exhumed. But not everybody welcomes the efforts of the advocates of the past. The mass graves exhumations are controversial. The wall of silence has been breached, and Spain now stands face to face with its past.

    What part can justice play in this process today? How does Spain look back onto its past as a dictatorship?

  • Big Brother (France / Switzerland - 2 x 1 h.)

    An ordinary day in the life of an ordinary man: a man who works on his computer, withdraws money from an ATM, who takes the Metro with with his electronic pass. He ignores to all intents and purposes that he is under surveillance. Credit cards, GPS tracking systems, the business of surveillance, microchip implants: an ordinary day in the life of a man in a free society of citizen surveillance.
  • Freedom under surveillance (France - 1 h.)

    On 13th and 14th November 2007 in Strasbourg, France, the second National Symposium on Video Surveillance was convened. The aim being to promote video surveillance. A meeting ground for vendors, political decision makers and law enforcement agents. But certain groups such as CREP (Committee for Regaining of Public Space) are trying to oppose this project.
  • Sierra Leone: post-war diaries (5 x 30 min.)

    What do we know about Sierra Leone? Maybe the devastating civil war, the thousands of child soldiers, maybe the diamonds too, but what else? The civil war officially came to an end on the 1st January 2002. Sierra Leone seems far, far away, far from the Swiss reality, far from our preoccupations, almost disconnected from world affairs. These travel diaries take us to the real place, in a tumult of violent and sweet pictures, surrealistic situations and encounters, between the sound of revolt and the taste of the future: almost like an immersion in one of Jacques Prévert’s poems.
  • Public sexuality nurses (Switzerland - 2 x 1 h.)

    Marylin, Pamela, Trevor, Plume, Zoe and Lisa are Geneva prostitutes, "public sexuality nurses". How was their first time, their first customer...?
  • Tihar Jail, the largest prison in Asia

    12’500 prisoners (India - 2 x 30 min.)

    Tihar Jail, New Delhi, the largest prison in Asia, accommodates 12'500 prisoners. This feature takes us on a journey through prison life as seen through the eyes of the prisoners and the jail administration.
  • Women in freemasonry (Switzerland - 30 min.)

  • Charter flights to exoticism

    The tourist industry in Bali (Indonesia - 1 h.)

  • Alang: the oil tankers’ cemetery

    Cargos, tankers and... workmen (India - 30 min.)

    As oil catastrophes such as Prestige or Erika launch the debate on the surveillance and the maintenance of tankers and cargoes, what about their destruction? Away from inquiring eyes, anti-pollution checks, safety norms and salary costs, there is a place called Alang beach, in the State of Gujarat. This is where the vast majority of the world’s tankers, war frigates, cargoes, and even aeroplanes, end up. Everyday, 20'000 to 30'000 men dismantle these ships by hand, to recycle the metal and equipment. Sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
  • The CERN

    European Organization for Nuclear Research (5 x 30 min.)

  • Salvador de Bahia

    Jorge Amado’s working-class heroes (Brazil - 10 x 30 min.)

    Say Brazil and Salvador de Bahia and everyone comes up with the usual clichés of soccer, beaches, pretty girls and Carnival. Away from these artificial stereotypes, Sylvain Savolainen’s travel diaries focus on the working class in the capital of Bahia State: the world of harbours workers and prostitutes, sugar cane cutters and humble people. Throughout the feature, legendary figures pop up, such as Carlinhos Brown, Pierre Verger or the shadow of Jorge Amado. Sylvain’s travel diaries take us to a world where humour and violence, historical events and anecdotes, music and silence live side by side.
  • Mona, a Eunuch like any other... (Inde - 2 x 30 min.)

    The interest of an interview lies in the discussion with a person with a particular experience or point of view on life. Far from a sensationalist approach of Eunuchs (with a capital E), such as “Eunuchs are all the same, monsters, human beasts, circus animals”, this sensitive interview sheds light on Mona, a Eunuch (in India, always used in the feminine form), on her friendship with the photographer Dayanita Singh, her desire to educate her adopted daughter, her background, the cemetery where she lives and the part she is allowed to play or not to play in Indian society.
  • Deserts, inhabited dreams - the Afar people (Ethiopia - 2h)

  • Calcutta (India - 5 x 30 min.)