22 Feb 2012

Veteran war reporter Marie Colvin killed in Syria

Award-winning Sunday Times journalist, Marie Colvin, is killed in the Syrian city of Homs. The paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch calls her “one of the most outstanding correspondents of her generation”.

The award-winning British journalist, Marie Colvin, is reported to have been killed in a shell attack in the Syrian city of Homs. (Reuters)

Ms Colvin, who was covering the bloody uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, was said to have been discovered dead alongside French photographer, Remi Ochlik, 29, after Syrian security forces shelled the building in which they were meeting activists, in the Baba Amr district.

British photographer, Paul Conroy, was also reported to have been seriously injured in the attack. He was on assignment with Ms Colvin for The Sunday Times.

Witnesses told reporters that the journalists were hit by a rocket while they attempted to escape the attack.

Last night, Ms Colvin described to Channel 4 News the “merciless” attacks on civilians surrounding her.

She said: “I think the sickening thing is the complete merciless nature. They’re hitting civilian buildings mercilessly and without caring. The scale of it is just shocking.”

Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch leads tributes
"It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Marie Colvin, one of the most outstanding foreign correspondents of her generation, who was killed in Homs in Syria today while reporting for The Sunday Times.
She was a victim of a shell attack by the Syrian army on a building that had been turned into an impromptu press centre by the rebels. Our photographer, Paul Conroy, was with her and is believed to have been injured. We are doing all we can in the face of shelling and sniper fire to get him to safety and to recover Marie's body.
Marie had fearlessly covered wars across the Middle East and south Asia for 25 years for The Sunday Times. She 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. This was at great personal cost, including the loss of the sight in one eye while covering the civil war in Sri Lanka. This injury did not stop her from returning to even more dangerous assignments."
Remembering Marie Colvin - read more tributes here

Veteran reporter

A passionate advocate of frontline war reporting, Ms Colvin, an American who was in her 50s, had earned a reputation as one of the most fearless foreign correspondents of her generation.

Her bravery was commended by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who also paid tribute Mr Ochlik.

Mr Hague said Ms Colvin “was utterly dedicated to her work, admired by all of us who encountered her, and repsected and revered by her peers. Her tragic death is a terrible reminder of the risks that journalists take to report the truth.”

He added that their deaths were “a terrible reminder of the suffering of the Syrian people – scores of whom are dying every day. Marie and Remi died bringing us the truth about what is happening to the people of Homs.”

Tributes were also paid to Ms Colvin by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Labour leader, Ed Miliband, during prime ministers’ questions.

At an event at St Bride’s Fleet Street to commemorate media professionals who have died while covering conflicts of the 21st century in November 2010, Ms Colvin spoke passionately about the continuing need to send journalists to report from the frontline.

She said: “Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rought draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.”

“The need for frontline, objective reporting has never been more compelling.” Marie Colvin

Of her profession, she added: “I have been a war correspondent for most of my life. It has always been a hard calling. But the need for frontline, objective reporting has never been more compelling.”

Over a career spanning more than 20 years, she covered conflicts in the Balkans, Chechnya, East Timor, Israel, Palestine, Iraq and more recently, Libya.

In 2001, she lost her left eye while covering the Sri Lankan civil war, subsequently sporting a distinctive eye-patch.

She was awarded the Foreign Reporter of the Year award at the British Press Awards in 2010, an award she had already picked up in 2001.

World Press

Remi Ochlik, who died alongside Ms Colvin, had covered uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and was awarded first prize in the general news category of World Press Photo for his work in Libya just two weeks ago.

This morning, Alain Juppe, French foreign minister, confirmed that a French journalist had been killed.

He said the death highlights “the degradation of the situation” and “an increasingly intolerable repression” by Syrian forces.

Human rights activists estimate that Syrian security forces have killed more than 5,000 people since the uprising against President Assad began.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have documented the deaths of at least four Syrian journalists.

Citizen journalism

Cameraman, Ferzat Jerban, was found dead in Homs in November, while Basil al-Sayed, a freelance cameraman, was shot in the head at a Homs checkpoint in late December.

Last month, radio host Shukri Ahmed Ratib Abu Burghul died days after being shot. Photojournalist Mazhar Tayyara was also killed by government forces’ fire in Homs.

However with stringent restrictions on foreign journalists entering Syria, citizen journalists have also played a crucial role in highlighting the deteriorating situation.

This has not been without cost: yesterday, Rami al-Sayed, who provided live video streams from Homs and posted more than 800 videos on YouTube, was hit during the shelling of Baba Amr and died some hours later.