Fearless war correspondent dies reporting the plight of Syrian civilians

Marie Colvin, one of the most distinguished of today’s war correspondents, was killed in the line of duty in Syria in February 2012. © Reuters

Killing condemned by UNESCO DG, 23 February 2012

Marie Colvin - Syria – Killed, 22 February 2012


Marie Colvin went back to collect her shoes, left by the door in accordance with local tradition, so that she could get out of the building.  Colvin was escaping from a temporary “media centre” in Homs administered by the Syrian opposition, which had come under attack by rockets and mortar grenades.

At that time in February 2012, the city of Homs had been under constant artillery bombardment by the Syrian Army for nineteen straight days. The building had been picked for the journalists because it was out of the direct line of fire. With every day that passed, Homs was being turned into smoking ruins.

Marie Colvin, 56, was American-born, but she had worked for the British newspaper The Sunday Times since 1985. Colvin was an immensely experienced correspondent. She knew the Middle East like the back of her hand, and in a career spanning more than a quarter of a century she had covered nearly every significant conflict around the world.

Colvin was driven by a fierce urge to report the story from the very heart of war zones. Her insistence on being in the front line brought a visible souvenir: a black patch over one eye. Shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade took out her left eye during the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2001.

Colvin’s first-in, last-out determination may well have been instrumental in saving the lives of around 1,500 women and children during the crisis over independence in East Timor. She doggedly refused to stop reporting from the compound, besieged at the time by Indonesian Army troops, until international pressure forced the surrounding forces to allow evacuation of the civilian population after a four-day standoff.  

In February 2012, Colvin was also reporting from Homs for the BBC, Channel 4, CNN, and ITN via her satellite phone. The previous night, she was heard describing the “completely merciless nature” of the sniper fire and the bombings targeting civilians.  Shortly after Colvin had filed her report, shelling from Syrian government positions struck the upper storey of the building.

The explosion ended the life of one of the most distinguished of today’s war correspondents, the recipient of numerous awards for courage in journalism.

Along with Colvin, the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik died that day in Homs, reporting the Syrian uprising.

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This article was originally printed in the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat. The content of the article may have been modified and/or updated as information became available following the date of publication.
UNESCO encourages all media outlets to inform the public of violations of press freedom; to raise awareness of issues impacting the safety of journalists around the world; and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
The original article in Finnish can be found here.

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