Journalists killed in Syria rocket strike 'were targeted'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Intercepted radio messages suggest Assad's army was told to attack press

Hacipasa

Marie Colvin, one of the most eminent war correspondents of her generation, was killed yesterday along with Remi Ochlik, an award winning photographer from France, while covering the siege of the Syrian city of Homs

Two other journalists, including Paul Conroy, a photographer who also worked for The Sunday Times with Colvin, were injured when the house in which they were staying was hit by rockets. Fellow journalists, human rights activists and politicians condemned the killings amid claims that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad knew the building was being used by foreign media.

Colvin, 55, had written a powerful and poignant dispatch for her newspaper in which she described the suffering inflicted on the population of Homs, which has become a symbol of resistance during the Syrian uprising.

She had also appeared on a number of international broadcast networks, including the BBC and CNN, to accuse President Assad's forces of murder. She said the regime was peddling "complete and utter lies that they are only targeting terrorists". Describing what was happening as "absolutely sickening", she declared: "The Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians." She also gave a charged description of watching a two-year-old die from a shrapnel wound.

Jean-Pierre Perrin, a reporter with the French newspaper Libération, was with Colvin in Homs last week. He claimed they were told that the Syrian army was "deliberately" planning to shell their makeshift press centre. There were also unconfirmed reports that intercepted radio traffic between Syrian army officers contained threats to kill foreign journalists.

The Syrian ambassador to London, Dr Sami Khiyami, was summoned to the Foreign Office to be told the UK expects prompt arrangements to be made for the repatriation of the journalists' bodies and for the injured British photographer to be given medical treatment.

Colvin, an American who had worked for The Sunday Times since 1985, seamlessly used both steeliness and charm in pursuit of stories. She lost her left eye to shrapnel in 2001 while working in Sri Lanka.

When she was stopped at a checkpoint after the fall of Tripoli in Libya last year, she got past a particularly obdurate militia commander by browbeating him. But she won him over enough to have him ask for his picture to be taken with her. "You never know, we might need him on the way back," she pointed out.

She was fiercely proud of what the best kind of journalism could achieve. "You hear all this talk about the meaning of the media, the need for integrity etc," she said while discussing the Leveson Inquiry. "But isn't it quite simple? You just try to find out the truth of what's going on and report it the best way you can. And because we are kind of romantic, our sympathy goes towards the underdog."

Colvin was adamant, however, that it was necessary to relax at times on tough assignments. One night in Tunis, at the start of the Arab Spring, her reaction to journalists being refused a late drink was to tell the waiter: "If you don't serve us I warn you I will take off my eye patch." We were served with alacrity.

She could organise a party anywhere. I have fond memories of a dinner at the BBC house in Kabul, when she decided everyone was being far too serious. She got the furniture pulled back, the carpet lifted and got everyone up for not very refined but highly enthusiastic dancing.

As tributes poured in, Simon Kelner, chief executive of the Journalism Foundation and former editor of The Independent, said: "Marie Colvin embodied all the qualities required of a great journalist: bravery, integrity and a fearless desire to seek the truth. At a time when newspapers are under intense scrutiny, her work is a reminder of the fundamental purpose of journalism, and her death, along with the French photographer Remi Ochlik, represents a dark day indeed."

In her own words: Life on the front line

In November 2010, St Bride's Church – the "journalists' church" on Fleet Street – held a service to commemorate reporters, cameramen and support staff killed while covering the conflicts of the 21st century's first decade. Marie Colvin delivered the address. In it, she said:

"Just last week, I had a coffee in Afghanistan with a photographer friend, Joao Silva. We talked about the terror one feels and must contain when patrolling on an embed with the armed forces through fields and villages in Afghanistan... putting one foot in front of the other, steeling yourself each step for the blast. The expectation of that blast is the stuff of nightmares. Two days later, Joao stepped on a mine and lost both legs. Many of you here must have asked, or be asking now, is it worth the cost in lives, heartbreak, loss? Can we really make a difference? I faced that question when I [lost an eye in Sri Lanka]. One paper ran a headline saying, 'has Marie Colvin gone too far this time'? My answer then, and now, was that it is worth it. Today in this church are friends, colleagues and families who know what I am talking about, and bear the cost of those experiences, as do their families and loved ones. We must also remember how important it is that news organisations continue to invest in sending us out at great cost, both financial and emotional, to cover stories. We go to remote war zones to report what is happening. The public have a right to know what our government, and our armed forces, are doing in our name. Our mission is to speak the truth to power... We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
news
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada