Colvin: Sometimes war reporters 'pay the ultimate price'

Reuters is this morning reporting that The Sunday Times’ award-winning foreign correspondent Marie Colvin was killed during a shell attack by armed forces in the Syrian city of Homs.

Colvin, who was named foreign reporter of the year at the British Press Awards in 2001 and 2010, covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Beirut.

In a report last weekend The Sunday Times said Colvin was the only British newspaper journalist inside the besieged Syrian enclave of Baba Amr.

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 was 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.’

Colvin was reporting on a secret humanitarian disaster in the north of Sri Lanka in 2001 for the Sunday Times when she was attacked trying to re-enter the south of the country and lost her eye to a shrapnel wound.

She was the first foreign journalist to travel in the rebel-held north since 1995 and later said she was convinced she was deliberately targeted by soldiers.

At the 2010 service, which paid tribute to journalists including Sunday Mirror reporter Rupert Hamer and ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd, Colvin warned that ‘it has never been more dangerous to be a war correspondent, because the journalist in the combat zone has become a prime target”.

Despite advances in technology, she said the scene on the ground during conflicts had ‘remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years”.

‘Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children.

“In an age of 24-7 rolling news, blogs and twitters, we are on constant call wherever we are. But war reporting is still essentially the same – someone has to go there and see what is happening.”

Despite the dangers, she continued to urge news organisations to invest in sending war correspondent to cover foreign conflicts.

“Today we must also remember how important it is that news organisations continue to invest in sending us out at great cost, both financial and emotional, to cover stories,’she said.

“We go to remote war zones to report what is happening. The public have a right to know what our government, and our armed forces, are doing in our name…. Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history.

‘We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.”

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