Friends mourn US journalist killed in Syria as 'fearless'
Marie Colvin struck by artillery fire in Homs along with French photographer Remi Ochlik.
Marie Colvin in Misrata Photo: Reuters
Tributes poured in on Thursday for Marie Colvin, the US journalist for Britain’s
Sunday Times killed a day earlier in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, a center
of opposition to the government of President Bashar Assad.
French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed by Syrian army shelling of a
makeshift media center in a residential building in the city’s Baba Amr
district. Unconfirmed witness statements said government forces knew foreign
journalists were being sheltered in the building.
bring to seven the number of journalists who have died in the country since
November, including New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, who died in northern
Syria last week of an allergy-induced asthma attack.
Colvin, 56, was a
veteran war reporter whose 26-year career with the Times took her through
conflict zones from Chechnya to East Timor to Iraq. Her trademark eyepatch – she
lost an eye in 2001 to a Tamil Tiger grenade in Sri Lanka – symbolized her
courage under fire and a commitment to relaying stories from the world’s danger
zones no matter the personal risk.
“She was a phenomenal person, very
warm and loving and funny – enormously funny,” said Judith Miller, a journalist
and longtime friend.
Miller – a former New York Times investigative
reporter now writing for City Journal magazine – said her late friend took the
dangers of her profession in stride.
“She almost had a Middle Eastern
attitude toward it. She’d say, ‘If something happens, it happens,’” Miller
recalled. “I thought her close brush with death in Sri Lanka, her long recovery
and getting the glass eye might sober her up and lead her to be more cautious,
but it didn’t – she just went back into the fray. That’s who she
Miller said Colvin’s most valuable asset was her decades of
experience reporting from the world’s war zones.
“There is often no
substitute for experience and a sense of history,” she said. “She had that kind
of breadth of knowledge that let her put the pieces together the way younger
reporters can’t always do. That’s why the term ‘veteran correspondent’ was just
as applicable to her as words like ‘brave,’ ‘audacious’ and ‘legendary.’”
meet many people in your life, and certain people stand out,” said Harold Rhode,
a former Middle East analyst at the office of the US Secretary of Defense. “She
was kind and decent, but fearless – she’d go anywhere in the world where people
were fighting for freedom.”
“There was nothing that could hold this woman
down,” said Rhode, who first met Colvin in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion. “She
genuinely believed in freedom – she wanted to write about people trying to
liberate themselves from the yoke of tyranny.”
Colvin, who lived in
London when not on assignment, was married three times but had no
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, she studied
anthropology at Yale and worked at United Press International before joining The
Sunday Times in 1985. A year later she became the weekly’s Middle East
correspondent. Reporting from the West Bank shortly thereafter, Colvin suffered
a broken nose when a stone was hurled through the window of a car in which she
On Wednesday, her mother Rosemarie told reporters her
daughter had planned to leave Syria shortly before she was killed, but had
stayed to finish a story.
“My daughter was murdered by these people,” the
reporter’s mother said, referring to the Syrian regime.
fearlessness won her a clutch of awards, including the Woman Journalist of the
Year prize at the 2010 Foreign Press Association in London and the British Press
Award for foreign correspondent of the year, which she won twice.
laid out her reporting philosophy in a 2010 tribute to journalists killed in
“Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women
weeping for children and husbands. Our mission is to report these horrors
of war with accuracy and without prejudice,” Colvin said. “We always have to ask
ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story... What is
bravery, and what is bravado?”
“In an age of 24/7 rolling news, blogs and
Twitter, we are on constant call wherever we are,” she continued. “But war
reporting is still essentially the same – someone has to go there and see what
is happening. You can’t get that information without going to places
where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you.”
entering Syria to write what would be her last story, Colvin told a friend she
had an “ominous feeling” about the assignment. In one of her last Facebook
posts, she wrote, “I think reports of my survival may be
exaggerated... In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world
can stand by and I should be hardened by now.”
In her last dispatch – a
television interview with CNN – Colvin dismissed the Syrian regime’s insistence
that it is only targeting “armed terrorists.”
“The top floor of the
building I’m in has been hit, in fact totally destroyed,” she told the network’s
Anderson Cooper. “There are no military targets here... It’s a complete
and utter lie that they are only going after terrorists.”
army, she concluded, “is shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.”