Marie Colvin BBC dispatch“Despite all the videos you see from the Ministry of Defence or the Pentagon, and all the sanitised language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has 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.

Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice.”

This is part of a speech given by Marie Colvin at a ceremony remembering journalists killed in war in 2010. Many of the things she said that day, and throughout her career reflecting on what she did, have a cruel irony now. She went on to the question that is regularly put to journalists and editors, and is a matter of constant debate:

“Is it worth the cost in lives, heartbreak, loss? Can we really make a difference?

I faced that question when I was injured. In fact one paper ran a headline saying, has Marie Colvin gone too far this time? My answer then, and now, was that it is worth it.”

Remi Ochlik Libya World Press photoAnd that says it all. She died in a place, at a time when she couldn’t have been anywhere else. She is a standard bearer for our times and an inspiration for a new generation.

Alongside her on the 22nd February 2012 in Baba Amr, Homs, was Remi Ochlik. Just 2 weeks ago, at the age of 28, he had won the first prize in the World Press Photo News stories category, for his series of photographs in Libya. This is one of them.

On the same day, blogger Rami Al-Syed was also caught in the shellfire. He has been a key source of footage and information for news outlets worldwide and on his way to a hospital he was hit. The three people with him were killed instantly, and he died a short time later. Seven activists trying to get to him with medical supplies were also killed.

These three deaths among many are going to have an impact far beyond the relentless build up of bodies until now. As John Owen, international journalism professor and veteran journalist said today, they represent the core modern strands of news gathering. Without them, what would we know? What would we understand?

Marie Colvin believed in her profession with unwavering idealism. In her speech she continued, “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.”

She concluded, front line journalists, fixers, drivers, translators “have kept the faith, as we who remain must continue to do.”



Marie Colvin features in the documentary Bearing Witness which follows the work of female foreign correspondents  working during the Iraq invasion in 2003. It is an excellent film.

(Top picture, Marie Colvin speaking to BBC news the night before she was killed. Second picture, one of Remi Ochlik’s award winning photos taken in Libya during the revolution.)