The tragic death of foreign correspondent and reporter for The Sunday Times, Marie Colvin, has sent shockwaves across the British Media. All eyes are now on Syria and in particular President Assad, the despot ultimately responsible for shelling the makeshift press centre inHoms, which killed both Marie and French photographer, Remi Ochlik.
Journalists, authors and politicians from across the world have paid tribute to this remarkable and courageous woman. ‘Utterly devastating,’ said Jon Snow. ‘A great loss for us all,’ said William Hague. ‘I am proud to have known her,’ said Salman Rushdie.
The day before her death, the Syrian conflict took up a slim column in The Telegraph, a 15 lined paragraph in The Guardian and it didn’t even make The Mail. Now it’s headline news.
I wonder what Marie would have made of this.
The chilling report she gave on Tuesday to the BBC – how she had watched a two-year-old child slowly die from a shrapnel wound, ‘his little tummy kept heaving until he died’ – was shockingly received, but failed to produce the backlash against Assad that Marie’s own death seems to have instigated.
Indeed her recent warning to CNN ‘this is the worst [conflict I’ve seen] for many reasons’ – words from someone who has reported from front lines in Chechnya and the Balkans, who lost an eye in the Sri Lankan conflict, who knows what war is – was not heard.
In 2010, Marie gave an address to commemorate all war reporters who have died reporting since the year 2000. ‘Covering war means…trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash.’
Her death has not only brought the Syrian conflict to the forefront but highlighted the dangerous work that journalists must do if these atrocities are to continue to be reported.
If her life teaches us anything, it is the importance of the work of journalists.
With the recent phone-hacking scandal, allegations of cash for information and the on-going Leveson Inquiry, the word ‘journalist’ has become a dirty one. All seem to have been tarnished with the same brush, and as Education Secretary Michael Gove said this week, there are fears that freedom of the press will be over-regulated.
I hope that in addition to shining light on the war crimes in Syria, and finally getting the worldwide attention they deserve, Marie Colvin’s death helps to restore faith in the profession of journalism.
I hope it reminds us there are those, like Marie, who put their lives on the line every day in their unyielding search for ‘truth in [the] sandstorm of propaganda,’ in whichever country they may be.
This is, of course, so that next time, one of our own doesn’t have to die before we sit up and listen.
by Beenie Langley