Colvin and Ochlik excelled at their vocations

Thu, Feb 23, 2012, 00:00

MARIE COLVIN’S final dispatch, published just three days before she and Rémi Ochlik were killed by shell and rocket fire, came from a bleak cellar packed with women and children cowering in the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

Relating the stories of those sheltering in what she called “the widows’ basement”, Colvin explained how she had made her way to the pulverised city by crossing into Syria from Lebanon via a secret smugglers’ route.

But the focus of her final article in Britain’s Sunday Timesnewspaper was not her own fate, but that of the Syrian people. “The scale of the human tragedy in the city is immense,” she wrote. “Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death.”

On all the Syrian civilians’ lips around her, she added, was the searing question: “Why have we been abandoned by the world?”

Born in Long Island, New York, in the mid-1950s, Colvin was famous among her peers for her determination.

A graduate of Yale University, she made it her cause to try to cover every war zone in the world during the last quarter of a century and, if possible, to get there first. She also had a reputation for exceptional bravery and for taking calculated risks.

She began working for the Sunday Timesin 1985 and went on to cover conflicts from the Middle East to Chechnya.

She was injured while reporting in the West Bank during the 1980s when a stone thrown through the window of a car hit her in the face and broke her nose.

In Sri Lanka more than a decade later, a hand grenade that went off near by left her without the use of her left eye. – (Reuters)

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic adds: Rémi Ochlik, a 28-year-old from Lorraine in eastern France, had in his short career established himself as an outstanding journalist.

He made a name for himself aged 20 when, while still in college, he travelled to Haiti to cover the conflict surrounding the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Ochlik set up his own agency, IP3 Press, for which he covered war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008 and the Haitian presidential election in 2010.

Last year, he followed the Arab revolts as they spread from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya.

“Every country I covered had its own relationship to its regime, but the hope, the élanand the slogans were the same. People were driven by a sense of exasperation, me by a sense of being where history was being played out.”

He recently won a World Press Photo award for his work in Libya.