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Two Western Journalists Among Dead In Syria


In Syria today, more than 70 people were reported killed. They include two highly-regarded Western journalists. Marie Colvin was an American. She reported for Britain's Sunday Times. And Remi Ochlik was a young French photographer. They died in the city of Homs, which is under bombardment by the Syrian army.

NPR's Philip Reeves tells us more.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The Syrian government doesn't generally allow journalists into the country. News of the carnage committed by its army often comes out through videos posted on the Internet by activists. Today, there was another video, this time showing the bodies of Western journalists.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: Colvin and Ochlik and archly were killed by a shell that smashed into a house which the Syrian opposition was using as a press center.

Ochlik was a rising star who, though only 28, had already bagged a big international photography prize. Colvin was a veteran in her 50s, whose coverage of numerous conflicts for Britain's Sunday Times won many awards. She was held in high esteem, even among politicians whom she sought to hold to account.

DAVID CAMERON: Members of the House, we've also seen the reports that the talented and respected foreign correspondent of the Sunday Times, Marie Colvin has been killed from the bombing in Syria.

REEVES: British Prime Minister David Cameron led the tributes in Parliament.

Colvin was from Oyster Bay, New York, but spent the best part of her career with Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times. She lost an eye in the Sri Lankan civil war, yet carried on going to wars wearing a black eye patch. Typical Colvin, says Newsweek writer Christopher Dickey.

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY: She was incredibly brave. She would go right to the middle of the action, because she felt that that was the only place where you could see really what the war was doing, the effects that it had on the people who were fighting and the civilians who were dying. And, of course, that's exactly what she was doing in Homs.

REEVES: Colvin sneaked into Syria through a secret smugglers' route. Yesterday, she told the BBC what she found in Homs.

MARIE COLVIN: There were just shells, rockets coming in just hitting any building. And the top floor of the building I'm in was hit last week. The building next to me was completely obliterated.

REEVES: Her reporting focused especially on the plight of civilians.

COLVIN: I watched a little baby die today - absolutely horrific - just a two-year-old, been hit. They stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest, and the doctor just said I can't do anything. And his little tummy just kept heaving until he died. That is happening over and over and over.

REEVES: Journalists go to places like Syria because they feel they must bear witness to such scenes. Colvin and Ochlik were not alone in paying with their lives. Yesterday, a rocket-propelled grenade killed a prominent opposition activist, a Syrian citizen journalist called Rami al-Sayed. Rami made many of those Internet videos.

A while back, there was a memorial service for the many journalists and their support staff who lost their lives in war zones.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: May the names of those who have died not be forgotten.

REEVES: Colvin made a speech. She stressed the importance of continuing to cover conflicts. She acknowledged it is very dangerous. But she said people have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name, a right that Colvin and several others have just died for.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.