Remembering Marie Colvin, friend and intrepid war correspondent
Haaretz contributor Petra Ramsauer recalls Marie Colvin, one of two western journalists killed on Wednesday while reporting on the Syrian uprising.
The night before Marie Colvin was killed, she posted a message to her friends in a closed facebook group. It sent a chill down my spine: “Please post my Baba Amr, Homs story in February 19 issue. I don't often do this, but it is sickening what is happening here. Cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless."
Her words made me to reconsider my plans for the near future. Having just returned from Libya, I intended to go to Homs later, by the end of March at the earliest. Only her passionate account made me realize. I must go now. I sent her a brief message, inquiring about the latest intelligence of how to sneak in. This information she would never want me to share publicly, for the sake of those, who take these roads, but I might share her last words. “Bring warm clothes. It is freezing here. It is so cold.”
This morning I got another message, and it sent another hefty chill down my spine. “Something bad has happened to Marie. Still unconfirmed”, a Spanish journalist based in Beirut wrote. I didn't want it to be true, but I knew, that this journalist would never share rumors. So I knew it was true, when I got another message from her half an hour later, saying, “Marie is dead, confirmed.”
On the last day of her life Marie would do her utmost to get her story out, to the widest public. Just hours before her death, she would give live interviews for international channels.
It might be the case that Marie Colvin and several other journalists were killed in a targeted strike. The safe house, where the journalists stayed in Homs had an obvious satellite link. Her death, as well as the death of the young French photographer Rémi Ochlik, are sending out a clear warning: Covering Syria today is one of the most dangerous endeavors for war reporters. Even Marie pointed this out before her death. But not covering Syria must not be an option while the international community is sorting out its options of how to deal with this obvious massacre against the civilian population.
I am more committed going to Syria today than I was yesterday. We might never know the truth: Whether Marie's death was arbitrary or if it was meant to scare away international reporters. But if we, the reporters, give in now and stay away from Syria, the mayhem will get completely out of control. And then Assad's troops might eventually win his war, by winning the battle against free reporting. And in the end, this is what journalism should be about: Simply not giving in.
Petra Ramsauer is a journalist who has been covering crisis-hit and war-torn parts of the world since 1999.