Two Western journalists killed in besieged Syrian city
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REPORTING FROM PARIS -- An award-winning American-born journalist and a French photographer died in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, after the building in which they were taking shelter came under attack.
Veteran foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed by a rocket as they tried to escape from the house that was being shelled.
After the French government confirmed the deaths, tributes poured in for Colvin, 55, a reporter for the Sunday Times of London who had covered conflicts in Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East.
She was known for her courageous reporting from the world’s hot spots and the black eye patch that she wore after losing an eye from a shrapnel wound while working in Sri Lanka in 2001.
Colvin was the only journalist from a British newspaper in the Homs district of Baba Amr and had filed reports on the ‘absolutely sickening’ bloodshed she witnessed there in the days leading up to her death. Her report in the Sunday Times last weekend said the citizens of Homs were ‘waiting for a massacre.’
In an interview with CNN and the BBC on Tuesday, she said: ‘I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific ... his little tummy just kept heaving until he died. That is happening over and over and over. ... There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into the civilian areas of this city, and it is just unrelenting.”
Earlier this month, Ochlik, 28, won first prize in the World Press Photo contest’s general news category for images taken during the Libyan conflict. [Updated, 8:53 a.m. Feb. 22: Three other journalists were injured in the attack: Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier, 31, was wounded in the leg. Paul Conroy, a British freelance photographer working for the Sunday Times also suffered leg injuries. Humanitarian agencies were trying to get them out of the country, along with a third European journalist who was reportedly injured.
The two dead journalists were among 27 people killed in Syria on Wednesday, according to anti-regime activists.]
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the deaths of Colvin and Ochlik would be investigated.
‘It’s another demonstration of the degradation of the situation in Syria and of a repression that is more and more intolerable,’ he told reporters.
Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crises, knew Colvin and said that ‘she was one of the most fearless and dedicated reporters I have ever met in my 14 years covering war, and someone I looked up to as a hero and an inspiration.
‘For Marie, covering war wasn’t about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story. She experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience.’
Colvin, from Oyster Bay, N.Y., was married three times. She twice won the British Press Award for best foreign correspondent, as well as awards from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In November 2010, during a service to commemorate journalists who had died covering conflicts in the 21st century, Colvin outlined many of the dangers facing war reporters, whose mission is to report the horrors of war ‘with accuracy and without prejudice.’
‘We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story,’ she said. ‘What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price.’
-- Kim Willsher