Marie Colvin | 2000 Courage in Journalism Award
|1956 – 2012
The Sunday Times, United Kingdom.
Marie Colvin was a journalist who worked for the British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. Colvin, who had lost an eye to shrapnel in Sri Lanka, had covered conflicts in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Libya, East Timor and Syria.
At great personal risk, Colvin ventured into the heart of the action, emerging with stories of the victims at the center of the world’s conflicts. Keenly aware of the power of the media to show the fundamental horrors of war, she employed that power to help protect those who are most vulnerable.
In telling her stories, Colvin frequently risked her own life. While covering the war in East Timor, she fought to remain behind in the embattled UN refugee compound after journalists were asked to leave or risk being murdered. She insisted that a media presence was crucial to ensure the protection of refugees. In Kosovo, she shared trenches and went on patrol with the Kosovo Liberation Army as it engaged Serbian military forces.
In December 1999 in Chechnya, Colvin faced even greater danger when, along with a group of Chechen rebels, she was repeatedly attacked by Russian jet fighters. As she attempted to leave the Chechen rebel camp she was forced to walk for days through desolate, ice-covered mountains, fending off both Caucasian bandits and Russian paratroopers. Though the fearless Colvin admited her experience was harrowing, she also said that it gave her the insight she needed to write forceful, realistic reports on the daily struggles of Chechens fleeing the war.
“We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?” She seemed be reflecting on the risks she had taken.
However, she didn’t stop, knowing the increasing danger of a war correspondent. “It has never been more dangerous to be a war correspondent, because the journalist in the combat zone has become a prime target,” she said.
But she went to Syria anyway, ignoring the Syrian government’s attempts to prevent foreign journalists from entering Syria to cover the Syrian civil war without permission. She was killed on on assignment in Homs, Syria, on Feb. 22, 2012. Colvin died together with another award-winning French photographer Rémi Ochlik. The Syrian government claims the explosive device was planted by terrorists, while journalist Jean-Pierre Perrin and other sources reported that the building had been targeted by the Syrian Army.
She had to be there, even at the risk of her life. “You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you,” she said.
Marie Colvin is the first Courage in Journalism Award winner from the United Kingdom.
“My vocation is now to go to places torn by chaos, by destruction. I’ve never been that interested, I don’t think it’s the most important thing, in the politics of war – or what kind of toys are being used. I care about the experience of those most directly affected by war: people who are just trying to survive.”