Marie Colvin: reporter who knew risks of war all too well: Obit

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By Danny Kemp / AFP

LONDON: Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria on Wednesday aged 56, was a renowned war reporter for Britain’s Sunday Times whose distinctive black eye-patch symbolized her bravery and commitment.

Born in the United States but based in London for decades, her long career saw her cover some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, while most recently she reported on the Arab Spring uprisings from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

In her final powerful reports from the Syrian city of Homs, filed just hours before she died along with young freelance French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, she described a two-year-old boy dying of a shrapnel wound.

“I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific,” she told BBC television by telephone from Homs.

“His little tummy just kept heaving until he died.”

The Sunday Times, the paper she had worked for for 25 years, put her final dispatch from the Babr Amr area of Homs so that everyone could read it.

“It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire,” Colvin wrote in the piece, originally published on Sunday.

“On the lips of everyone was the question: ‘Why have we been abandoned by the world?'”

One of her most poignant comments from her last hours came on her Facebook page, where she responded to comments from colleagues wishing her well.

“A nightmare here. Mx”, she wrote to one.

Colvin’s determination to tell the stories of people caught in conflict had long led her deep into the heart of danger.

The eye patch she wore was the result of a shrapnel wound she sustained from a grenade explosion covering the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2001, depriving her of sight in one eye.

Born in Long Island, she majored in English at Yale University and her first job was as a night-shift police beat reporter for the United Press International news agency in New York City.

She then did a two-year stint as Paris bureau chief for UPI before joining The Sunday Times as a Middle East correspondent in 1986.

During her 25 years with the broadsheet she reported on almost every major conflict, from the Lebanese civil war to the first Gulf War, from Chechnya to East Timor.

Her injuries in Sri Lanka led to the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder but she overcame it by taking up competitive sailing, according to a biography issued by her employers.

Tributes poured in from colleagues hailing her bravery and describing her as an inspiration.

At St Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street, the so-called “journalists’ church”, a photograph and short account of both Colvin and Ochlik had already been added to the “shrine” of journalists killed on the job.

Their names now sit along side others such as Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and killed by militants in Pakistan in 2002, and photographer Tim Hetherington, who died in Libya in 2011.

Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born owner of The Sunday Times, said she was “one of the most outstanding foreign correspondents of her generation.”

Sunday Times editor John Witherow painted a picture of the woman behind the work, saying she was “much more than a war reporter”.

“She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humor and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery,” he said.

In an address at St Bride’s in November 2010, quoted on Wednesday by The Times, Colvin herself showed she was well aware of the risks of her trade.

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



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