The death of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin in Homs came just as media outlets, including Israeli ones, had begun to abandon the prominent headlines on the nearly year-long massacre currently taking place in Syria, and especially in the city of Homs. Who will tell the story of those nameless victims – more than 7,000 according to the latest estimates – that have already been slaughtered by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
The death of Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik must alert us, the couch sitters, to the fact that alongside the Syrian opposition activists, Western journalists are risking their lives, smuggling themselves into northern Syria, in order to inform the world that the massacre is still ongoing.
Colvin, 56, put herself in harm’s way countless times throughout her distinguished career. In 2001 she was the first Western journalist to cultivate a relationship with the Sri Lankan rebels, the Tamil Tigers. On her way back from her assignment she was injured and lost her left eye. Until her death she sported a black-eye patch, in Moshe Dayan fashion.
The eye patch served as a symbol of her courage. Wherever there was conflict, she was there to report on it. She went to regions torn with strife and battle. She even covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and often she was the only one of her colleagues to dive into uncharted territories.
Unfortunately, her life didn’t end peacefully in her bed, but rather in the shell-ravaged city of Homs. Once again the terrible question is asked: Was covering the massacre in Homs worth her life? Colvin herself settled the dilemma between journalistic mission and mortal danger.
Several years ago, at a ceremony in London commemorating British journalists who died in the line of duty, Marie Colvin said, as though prophesying, “we must ask ourselves what level of risk we are willing to take and whether it is worth the danger.”
“Where is the line between courage and arrogance?” she asked, adding that “sometimes journalists pay the ultimate price.”
Upon learning of her death, her colleagues in London said that Marie Colvin would not have been able to perform her job in any other way – certainly not behind a desk in some newsroom. And when we hear, watch or read of the goings on in Syria, we should always keep in mind those who risk their lives to get the word out.
The question remains whether the world has learned the lessons communicated by Colvin and her colleagues.