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Marie Colvin killed in Syria

22 February 2012

Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times correspondent, was killed in Syria today (22 February). The NUJ has joined the journalist community in sending its condolences to her family.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"We send our condolences to Marie's family and the family of Remi Ochlik, also killed in the attack. Marie was an excellent reporter who said that her mission was 'to report the horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice'. She did that with bravery and grace.
"The unspeakable violence that the government of Syria is meting on its own people is something it does not want the eyes of the rest of the world to see. Marie and her colleagues knew they had to be there to shine a torch on such atrocities, with the consequent risk to their lives."

Marie Colvin was the only journalist working for a British newspaper in Homs. According to reports, a shell hit the house being used as a makeshift media centre. Also named dead in the attack was Rémi Ochlik, 28, a French photojournalist. Other journalists are seriously injured. Last month, Gilles Jacquier of France 2 was killed in a rocket attack in Homs.

Marie Colvin covered many conflicts around the globe, most recently Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and Syria. Although her area of speciality was the Arab world, she also worked in Chechnya, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. She lost an eye when working in and Sri Lanka in 2001, from a shrapnel wound.

She won the British press award for Best Foreign Correspondent twice, for her work in reporting the conflict in Yugoslavia, Iran, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe; the International Women's Media Foundation award for Courage in Journalism for her coverage of Kosovo and Chechnya, and the Foreign Press Association's Journalist of the Year award. She wrote and produced the BBC documentary Arafat: Behind the Myth and presented a documentary on Martha Gellhorn, the war correspondent famed for her coverage of the Spanish Civil War.

In 2010, Marie Colvin spoke about the dangers of reporting on war zones at a Fleet Street ceremony honouring fallen journalists. She said:

"Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers, children Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice. We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price."

The NUJ and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have expressed concern that these latest killings will discourage journalists who wish to report from the city, fearing for their safety. The IFJ is calling on the Syrian authorities to avoid indiscriminate attacks that risk costing lives of civilians, including journalists. This follows the Red Cross appeal to warring factions to cease fire so as to enable humanitarian assistance for the benefit of the civilian population.

Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, said:

"This is a terrible loss for the journalists' families, their colleagues and the entire journalist community. The killing of these journalists, including Colvin who was a highly respected war reporter, shows the indiscriminate attacks on the city make it unsafe for journalists to report from at the time when the world desperately needs information on the Syrian crisis.
"The situation in Homs is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists and we are concerned about its impact on independent reporting on the conflict. We will hold the authorities to their international obligations to protect journalists who are in Homs and other Syrian cities."

Tags: , Marie Colvin, journalists killed, Syria, newspapers, Sunday Times