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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Open Thread: Syrian Civil War: Marie Colvin Killed in Homs

I’ve often written about the bad side of journalism, and especially that of the Murdoch owned press, but just breaking is some shocking new of the noble sacrifices many journalists make in their attempts to report reality. A civil war which is rapidly becoming one of the bloodiest conflicts has claimed the life of the great Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin. She was killed along with a photographer Remi Ochlik when the building she was staying in was shelled by Syrian government forces. The people who tried to escape were then targeted by rockets. Two other journalist were severely injured in the attack.

American born Colvin was the only journalist from a British paper in Syria, and has been described as the Martha Gellhorn of her generation. Witty, acerbic and fearless, only yesterday she filed reports for the BBC and CNN on the carnage in Homs.

“I watched a little baby die today,” she said. “Absolutely horrific.

“There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into civilian areas of this city and it is just unrelenting.”

In a report published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Colvin spoke of the citizens of Homs “waiting for a massacre”.

“The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one,” she wrote.

Last year, at a special ceremony in London at St Bride’s Church for the 49 journalists and media workers killed in war reporting over the last decade, Marie, who lost an eye due to shrap covering the Sri Lankan conflict, explained why she took the risks she did.

“Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death… and trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash.

And yes, it means taking risks, not just for yourself but often for the people who work closely with you.

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.

We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?”

Of course, the death of one journalist is nothing compared to the thousands of innocent civilians who have been slaughtered by the Syrian regime. Think of a citizen journalist like 26 year old Rami Ahmad Alsayed, killed in the streets of BabrAmr with three of his friends. He maintained a live video stream to provide graphic details of the kind of indiscriminate military terror Assad’s forces had unleashed on Homs. Below is  moving tribute by his brother of over Rami’s body, detailing his wounds. WARNING: upsetting images.

Marie Colvin, who described the situation in Homs as one of the bloodiest and most dangerous she’d ever seen, lost her life reporting how others were losing theirs. Her death brings home to us how lethal the situation is for most Syrians.

“Someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you.

The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen.

We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.”

Let’s hope that her death, like her life, keeps on making a difference, and this shocking news will shake the international community out of its indifference to the sufferings of Syria.

Please feel free to use this diary as an open thread, to discuss developments in Syria, or any other news.  



    Jean-Pierre Perin, a journalist for the Paris-based Liberation newspaper who was with Colvin in Homs last week, claimed they had been told that the Syrian Army was “deliberately” going to shell their centre.

    Mr Perin said: “A few days ago we were advised to leave the city urgently and we were told: ‘If they (the Syrian Army) find you they will kill you’.

    “I then left the city with the journalist from the Sunday Times but then she wanted to go back when she saw that the major offensive had not yet taken place.”

    Mr Perin, who headed to Beirut from Homs, said the Syrians were “fully aware” that the press centre was broadcasting direct evidence of crimes against humanity, including the murdering of women and children.

    “The Syrian Army issued orders to ‘kill any journalist that set foot on Syrian soil’.”

    It was in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, that Mr Perin received news of the intercepted Syrian Army radio traffic.

    The Syrians knew that if they destroyed the press centre, then there would be “no more information coming out of Homs”, said Mr Perin.

  2. It’s a shame our President’s attempts to change the character of US intervention has been so slimed and unsupported on both sides of the aisle.  The Presidents military policy has actually always been the thing I most admired.  I imagined an American force that lived up to the hype of people being happy when they were deployed.  It meant we were coming to help.  He rocked it in Libya and had Democrats signing on to impeach him, so now we have a mad man doing the same thing his father did and wiping out masses on Youtube and the old Iraq coalition is impudent.  To the pacifist wing of my party, whatcha going to do just watch?  To the Republicans who spent our national good name away, thanks again Brownie

  3. Saw it on CNN last night and just about lost my shit.  When I came here I said Markos Moulitsas was not a racist, but what he is is entirely without political skills or acumen.  This is flat out the dumbest ratfucking idea I’ve ever heard.  It takes actual skill and talent to build something and no talent and a Republican mind to set your mind to nothing but destruction.  That’s why he incubated Kos as the home of pissed of progressive critics, and that’s why now rather than build support for progressive candidates in 2012 2016 and beyond etc. he’s trying to ape the biggest idiot on earth Limbaugh.

    It embarrasses me that last night CNN highlighted him as a Democrat.  It enrages me that they suggested the President talk to the place that bans his Black supporters, however with this action I can wear my banning with even more pride.  I am happy not to be associated with such an open group of ratfuckers.

  4. Strummerson

    all the way around.

    I wonder if Asaad will try to escalate things with Israel in a textbook cynical attempt to get his own population behind him.  If so, I reckon that it’s gone too far for that.  There’s no way, apart from mass murder, that Syrians stop opposing him now.

  5. The events continue to unfold.

    Syria must be at the latter stages now. Last year at about this time it was obvious that in Libya that we (by any definition) could do certain things, and in Syria we could not. The Syrian situation would have had to change quite a bit to start putting options on the table.

    Assad seems hell-bent on setting that table.

  6. Shaun Appleby

    If anyone was watching Santorum just pissed away whatever advantage he had by engaging in petty wrangling over insider baseball regarding his congressional record in his confrontation with Romney.  It didn’t really add any lustre to Romney’s image either and he had a few jaw-dropping comments that pundits will rediscover tomorrow when they review the tape.

    Have to say Gingrich probably did himself some favours by staying out of the food fight and Ron Paul had, by far, the best lines.  When Santorum confronted him over his ad calling Santorum a fake he asked, “Why did you say that?” to which Paul replied, “Because you are.”  Heh.  Otherwise a pretty pitiful showing although they are refining their justification for being a bunch of prissy meddlers on social values.  

    I’m guessing Romney takes both Michigan and Arizona at this point.  We’ll see.

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