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Tribute | Marie Colvin: Gone but not forgotten

February 22, 2023 marked the 11th anniversary of the death of courageous American war correspondent Marie Colvin who died alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik when they were deliberately targeted by the Assad regime while covering its brutal siege on civilians living in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

Credit: Marc Nelson

The evening before she was killed, Colvin had broadcast live from Baba Amr on CNN, the BBC and Channel 4 News describing the horror being faced by civilians living in the area who were being ruthlessly bombarded by their own government in an effort to suppress the revolution that had begun almost one year earlier.

“Assad had said only terrorists remained there, but she [Marie Colvin] told me about the injured children she had seen cowering under the terrifying, relentless bombardment by the Fourth Armoured Division of the Syrian army”

Journalist Lindsey Hilsum

Colvin, a seasoned war reporter who had covered numerous wars in a variety of countries, had told her friend and fellow journalist, Lindsey Hilsum, the truth about what was happening in Syria on a video call shortly before her death, a truth that ran contrary to the propaganda that Assad was promoting of fighting “terrorists.”

“I will never forget my last conversation with Marie, who was speaking on Skype from Baba Amr in Homs,” Hilsum wrote in an article published by The Guardian in 2019.

“Assad had said only terrorists remained there, but she told me about the injured children she had seen cowering under the terrifying, relentless bombardment by the Fourth Armoured Division of the Syrian army. Marie and I had reported from many war zones, but I had never heard her sound so desperate. She said: ‘Lindsey, this is the worst we’ve ever seen.'”

The article also mentioned a Syrian defector who testified during a lawsuit filed in the US against the Syrian government by Marie’s sister Cat Colvin: “Compelling testimony came from a defector codenamed Ulysses, who described how the Syrian military intercepted Colvin’s broadcasts to CNN, the BBC and Channel 4 News, paid an informer to confirm where the journalists were staying, and celebrated her death.”

since the Assad regime was deliberately targeting civilians to begin with, it had even more hatred for journalists like Marie Colvin and the photographers who accompanied her into Syria who were determined to expose the regime’s crimes to the world

Friends of Colvin had ascribed her passion for war reporting to her empathy for the innocent victims of war, and a compulsive need to tell their stories. It was the reason that she had reentered Syria in spite of the extreme danger she knew she would be facing. Under the Geneva Convention, journalists who work as war correspondents are given the same right to protection as civilians in war zones, but since the Assad regime was deliberately targeting civilians to begin with, it had even more hatred for journalists like Marie Colvin and the photographers who accompanied her into Syria who were determined to expose the regime’s crimes to the world.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court in Washington DC […] found the Syrian government guilty of deliberately targeting a journalist who was simply doing her job

After Colvin was killed, Bashar Assad said that she alone was responsible for her death because he had not given her permission to enter Syria. But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court in Washington DC did not agree. In 2019 she found the Syrian government guilty of deliberately targeting a journalist who was simply doing her job.

In 2013, the Marie Colvin Center was founded by the Stony Brook University School of Communication and Journalism with the support of Marie Colvin’s family, her fellow journalists, and the News Corp Foundation. The Colvin Center hosts an annual Marie Colvin Distinguished Lecture, and offers the Journalism Without Walls study abroad program that enables the School of Communication and Journalism students to experience a taste of life as a foreign correspondent.

“We, as journalists, fail when we are afraid to face what people face, when we separate ourselves from the reality they live in, when we overlook the truth,”  says Marie Colvin.

The 2023 Distinguished Colvin Lecture will be held in her memory on April 5 and is titled Journalists on the Frontline: War, Conflict and PTSD. For more information check the Marie Colvin Center website for registration details.

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