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Colvin writes: "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."

Marie Colvin, who died in Homs, Syria, gave a speech during a service for war wounded at St. Bride's church, London, 11/10/2010. (photo: Dave M Benett/Getty Images)
Marie Colvin, who died in Homs, Syria, gave a speech during a service for war wounded at St. Bride's church, London, 11/10/2010. (photo: Dave M Benett/Getty Images)

A Fallen Journalist in Her Own Words

By Marie Colvin, Guardian UK

22 February 12


Today it was confirmed that the war correspondent Marie Colvin has died in the Syrian city of Homs. In November 2010 she gave the following speech on the importance of war reporting.

our Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured and humbled to be speaking to you at this service tonight to remember the journalists and their support staff who gave their lives to report from the war zones of the 21st century. I have been a war correspondent for most of my professional life. It has always been a hard calling. But the need for frontline, objective reporting has never been more compelling.

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?

Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price. Tonight we honour the 49 journalists and support staff who were killed bringing the news to our shores. We also remember journalists around the world who have been wounded, maimed or kidnapped and held hostage for months. It has never been more dangerous to be a war correspondent, because the journalist in the combat zone has become a prime target.

I lost my eye in an ambush in the Sri Lankan civil war. I had gone to the northern Tamil area from which journalists were banned and found an unreported humanitarian disaster. As I was smuggled back across the internal border, a soldier launched a grenade at me and the shrapnel sliced into my face and chest. He knew what he was doing.

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 after our meeting, Joao stepped on a mine and lost both legs at the knee.

Many of you here must have asked yourselves, or be asking yourselves now, is it worth the cost in lives, heartbreak, loss? Can we really make a difference?

I faced that question when I was injured. In fact 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 exactly what I am talking about, and bear the cost of those experiences, as do their families and loved ones.

Today 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 send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.

The history of our profession is one to be proud of. The first war correspondent in the modern era was William Howard Russell of the Times, who was sent to cover the Crimean conflict when a British-led coalition fought an invading Russian army.

Billy Russell, as the troops called him, created a firestorm of public indignation back home by revealing inadequate equipment, scandalous treatment of the wounded, especially when they were repatriated – does this sound familiar? – and an incompetent high command that led to the folly of the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was a breakthrough in war reporting. Until then, wars were reported by junior officers who sent back dispatches to newspapers. Billy Russell went to war with an open mind, a telescope, a notebook and a bottle of brandy. I first went to war with a typewriter, and learned to tap out a telex tape. It could take days to get from the front to a telephone or telex machine.

War reporting has changed greatly in just the last few years. Now we go to war with a satellite phone, laptop, video camera and a flak jacket. I point my satellite phone to south southwest in Afghanistan, press a button and I have filed.

In an age of 24/7 rolling news, blogs and Twitters, we are on constant call wherever we are. But war reporting is still essentially the same – 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.

And we could not make that difference – or begin to do our job – without the fixers, drivers and translators, who face the same risks and die in appalling numbers. Today we honour them as much as the front line journalists who have died in pursuit of the truth. They have kept the faith as we who remain must continue to do.

This is the text of a speech Marie Colvin gave at St Bride's church, Fleet Street, London on November 10, 2010 your social media marketing partner


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+31 # fdawei 2012-02-23 01:40
It's heartbreaking to have read the posthumous text of Marie Colvin's speech, where she so rightly describes the horrors and extreme danger of carrying out her profession to the highest degree of journalism and then making the ultimate sacrifice.
Mainstream media glosses over the gory details of war as Marie so aptly described. Yet mainstream media is compelled to confront its own inadequacies and cowardice in bringing the public the true picture, ONLY when the brave such as Marie and her 49 colleagues are either killed or maimed in the various wars being waged around the world.
God Bless you and your family Marie, and may the families of those slain journalists find peace knowing their kin were the stalwarts of professional journalism.
+22 # Peace Anonymous 2012-02-23 04:48
Thank You Marie Colvin. I sit here in awe of your courage. You are one of the few who have created the crack which allows the light to come in. Where would we be if the "pursuit of the truth" rested entirely on the shoulders of the spin doctors? God Bless You.
+15 # NanFan 2012-02-23 06:00
Heartbreaking news about all the journalists who died and were injured yesterday in Homs, but Marie Colvin's words just over a year ago reveal the amazing depth of their commitment to reporting the truth about war, their honor, and their understanding that they are never doing this alone, never without help or fear, and never without great purpose.

Marie Colvin leaves a remarkable legacy with this speech and with her life-long service. She and ALL war journalists deserve our ongoing respect.

I, for one, am in awe of their strength.

Thank you for sharing Ms. Colvin's speech with us.

+14 # RMDC 2012-02-23 07:43
This is a good statement but there is a very large number of journalists who are out of the business because the media corporations they send their stories to simply to not print or broadcast the "truth" they report. She mentions that the reports are "sanitized" and this is done by editors and publishers.
She ends by saying that "We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference." But the difference is not the one she alludes to in her talk. The difference is mass media support for war and all the terror, genocide, and distruction that the militaries of the richest nations on earth bring to poor nations that did absolutely nothing, other than have valuable natural resources or a strategic location.

Journalism is a failed profession. Occasionally an individual journalist breaks through but the overall result of the profession is nothing more than propaganda for governments and corporations. It is time for journalists to quit en masse and form new organizations on the internet. Robert Scheer left the LATimes when it was bought out by the right wing Chicago Tribune. Now he works as a real journalists.

The horror of war is 100% the fault of the colonial powers in Europe and the US. They bring war to Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and a dozen more nations. All the stories could be written by journaists working in the imperial capitals of London, Washington, Pairs, Brussels, and so on. That is where the real stories of war are.
+17 # artful 2012-02-23 08:31
Powerful. Too bad our leaders who keep rushing us into war don't read stuff like this.
+11 # Shirley 2012-02-23 10:35
yes, "Artful", you are so correct. Now we watch those
guys at the debates and realize how little they know..
and it leaves the watchers shaking our heads. More of us
should be in the streets..what else can we do?
+7 # cordleycoit 2012-02-23 11:15
We thank you for your service.
+8 # reiverpacific 2012-02-23 11:18
"Artful" -our so-called "leaders" probably DO read articles like this and either censor or dismiss them as "Negative reporting by leftists", like they write the inevitable civilian deaths off as "Collateral damage"!
I mean, look at the brouhaha attached to 9-11 when just a tiny bit of the damage done by the military death apparatus came home to cause "Collateral damage" to innocents at home as blowback for the uninvited US interference in the affairs other nations instigating the utterly predictable war drums and "Shock and awe". by Dimwits Bush and his cabal of cowards, almost all of who had "deferments" from Vietnam.
Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman (who was almost killed in the US, Kissinger-and Ford-sanctioned East Timor independence movement slaughter by Suharto's troops in 1999, in which two Australian reporters WERE murdered in cold blood) and many others who have paid with their lives for trying to bring the horrible reality of wars to thinking taxpayers -but whose work in the end, one has to dig for BEYOND the owner-media's suits and toothy-cute "anchors" who take the occasional heavily-protect ed and far from danger field trips.
At least this courageous woman was able to look to a life lived well and in pursuit of truth, in the face of the chicken-hawks who continue to push for conflict and death from the safety of their Beltway/Pentago n offices and McMansions.
+1 # ZeaForUs 2012-02-23 19:10
Let's hope you're right, dear reiverpacific. I am afraid there are so called "leaders" who read it, but don't realize they have to be grateful to the people who caused their leadership they abuse to bring the people on their knees in all meanings instead of serving them as clients they treat them worse than masters used to treat their slaves. I wonder how they can find a reason to behave like this. Is it inborn, taught by parents, teachers, did they follow a bad example from other "leaders" (read: 'dictators') from history/mytholo gy or perhaps a combination of just mentioned factors.
+2 # ZeaForUs 2012-02-23 18:59
A messaging angel returned to the heavenly domain of our Creator. What she did with her gift is unforgettable and may those who were found guity of her passing to the other world find righteous forgiving and/or be punished in an appropriate way. R.I.P. Lady Colvin, let nobody forget what happened in Homs and happened too many times in other places in this world where people seem unable to respect each other for what they do, but instead hate each other just of what they are.

U2 sings for you and all other martyrs based on Psalm 40:

"How long to sing this song?"
+2 # Guy 2012-02-24 08:53
Thank you Marie Colvin for paying the ultimate price for being of service to humanity.We love you.

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