Thursday, 23 February 2012

war journalism, and why it matters.

                                                             [jessica dowling reporting from the balkans] 

yesterday’s death of sunday times journalist marie colvin highlights the incredible danger journalists and photographers place themselves in to achieve a story. but it also shows the dedication of these people to show the truth to the world.

marie colvin was an experienced journalist who had reported from several war torn countries, including the former yugoslavia, sri lanka, east timor, and from various locations in the middle east. her work was admired by both her contemporaries and the public, and along with other awards she was named foreign correspondent of the year on two separate occasions by the british press awards. her death in the city of homs in syria ended a life that was spent chasing the truth and bringing it to the masses, despite the threats she invariably faced in these situations.

the dangers facing journalists like marie colvin, and photographer rĂ©mi ochlik, who was also killed in the same attack at the age of 28, should not be taken lightly. the importance of war journalism is sometimes forgotten by people; some believe journalists who put themselves in these kinds of situations do so more for the adrenaline and fame factors rather than for the search of truth. but in reality, without these kinds of individuals the stories of so many innocent victims of regimes’ such as assad’s would not be brought to the attention of the west. in the past, reports from war zones showed people the truth about what was happening in places like bosnia and rwanda, spurring foreign governments into taking action and stirring public pressure.

if any good can come of these deaths, the increasing force the international community is putting on the syrian regime as a direct result of them may help alleviate the suffering of the syrian people. french president nicolas sarkozy has already said “this is enough now, this regime must go”, and other world leaders agree. british prime minister david cameron told the house of commons: "this is a desperately sad reminder of the risks that journalists take to inform the world of what is happening and the dreadful events in syria”.

the deaths of journalists in war zones are sadly not new, and remain a terrible reminder that these kinds of regimes have no care for human life. not only does assad have no respect for his own people, who he is picking off in slow mode genocide, but he also seemingly has no concern in angering the international community. people can only hope that these deaths will spur governments into action, to help the innocent people of syria.

[jessica dowling is currently interning in sarajevo for balkan investigative reporting network (BIRN), working as a court reporter for several genocide trials in the court of bosnia and herzegovina and also assisting on research and writings on balkan transitional justice]