Deaths of Journalists in Syria Highlight Dangers

By From Richard Allen Greene Cnn | St. Joseph News-Press, February 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Deaths of Journalists in Syria Highlight Dangers


From Richard Allen Greene Cnn, St. Joseph News-Press


LONDON (CNN) -- The deaths of two Western journalists Wednesday in Syria -- where at least three other journalists have been killed in covering the uprising -- highlight the danger reporters face in covering conflict zones.

Marie Colvin, a longtime American foreign correspondent for London's The Sunday Times, and prize-winning war photographer Remi Ochlik, 28, were killed in shelling in the city of Homs, the besieged center of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Colleagues remembered Colvin, 56, who lost her left eye to shrapnel while covering a conflict in Sri Lanka, as "a legend" and "a class act."

Ochlik had covered conflicts from Haiti to Libya, and he won first prize in the 2011 World Press Photo general news category for a photograph of a rebel fighter resting in front of a rebel flag in the war-torn landscape of Libya's Ras Lanuf.

The French Foreign Ministry demanded that Syria give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Homs to remove the journalists' bodies.

"This shows how much the freedom to inform is important, how the work of a journalist can be so difficult," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday. "I want to pay tribute to them because if reporters were not over there, we would not know what is going on."

At least one other journalist, photographer Paul Conroy, was wounded in the attack, The Sunday Times said, adding that initial reports suggest his wounds are not serious.

The two journalists' deaths come less than a week after New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, died in Syria apparently of an asthma attack.

Colvin's legacy is to "live a passionate and important life as you see it," her mother, Rosemarie, told CNN. "Do what you're committed to, to the highest level you can do it -- because that's what she always did. Overcome the obstacles that you meet as best you can."

Rosemarie Colvin said she never told her daughter to stop doing her work because "it was the most useless conversation you could have had. ... From the time she was a little child, she was committed to doing things that were important."

"She was a ferocious correspondent, and ferociously funny," said CNN's Jim Clancy. "I just loved spending hours with her talking about the people, the places and the stories."

The emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, called Colvin "a legend among her fellows. She was always the first one to show up -- long before anybody else would arrive, and she really had a passion to report from these difficult places."

Bouckaert said Colvin had contacted him Tuesday about a story she had written for The Sunday Times, which requires readers to pay before gaining access to the website. "She said, 'Please, put my story ... over the pay wall, and I will face the firing squad tomorrow at the paper. I don't often do this, but it is sickening what is happening here.'

"So, we posted the story on a private Facebook page for journalists, and another journalist commented that he was relieved that she had already left Homs. So her response, her last message to us, said, 'I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated. I'm in Baba Amr. It's sickening trying to understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. I watched a baby die today. Shrapnel. The doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until it stopped. I'm feeling helpless as well as cold. I will try to keep getting out the information."

Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate who owns The Sunday Times, said Marie Colvin "put her life in danger on many occasions because she was driven by a determination that the misdeeds of tyrants and the suffering of the victims did not go unreported."

And John Witherow, the editor of the paper where she worked for more than 25 years, said Colvin "was much more than a war reporter. She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humor and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends. …

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