Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

The deadly risks of covering conflict zones

Globe and Mail Middle East correspondent Patrick Martin on the deaths of reporter Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik in Homs, Syria.

He set up the discussion by first talking about the death of New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, remembering they had dinner together in Lebanon at a time when Israeli warplanes were actively dropping bombs.

From The Globe and Mail:

Homs was different.

There, we’re dealing with a regime determined to keep shooting until it wins, and it has weapons that are superior in power and number to the opposition. It’s also made it clear to journalists entering without a visa that they may be targeted.

More than that, the shelling by government forces in Homs has focused largely on one district: Baba Amr, where a substantial number of armed opposition forces are holed up. This is not a good place to spend a long period of time.

Note: This is where Colvin and Ochlik were staying when they died.

From the BBC:

Ms Colvin and Mr Ochlik were reportedly staying in a house in Baba Amr that was being used by activists as a media centre when it was hit by a shell on Wednesday morning.

Rockets were also said to have hit the building’s garden when people tried to flee afterwards.

At least two other foreign journalists were wounded, activists said.

Many of the journalists going in to Homs went with the paid assistance of these forces. But there’s a legitimate question that needs to be asked: Should armed opposition forces be hiding among the civilian population? Or, once detected, should they have moved on?

Yes, the regime is using terribly violent means to put down the opposition, but this part of the opposition has put many of its own civilian population at risk – including the many citizen bloggers who have been recording events and transmitting to the outside world for months – with many hundreds of civilians being killed; along with them four journalists.

The BBC story had this:

On Tuesday Rami al-Sayed, a man who broadcast a live video stream from Homs used by world media, was killed in Baba Amr.

CTV’s Janis Mackey Frayer, who has reported from many war zones, wrote the following on Wednesday:

Even before I met her I admired Marie Colvin for her fearlessness and brilliant storytelling. She cast a necessary light, so to speak, on the sort of darkness that is difficult for many of us to understand. In many cases, her stories allowed people and their plight to exist.

In 2010 she made a speech to London newspaper executives and said: “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.”

Journalists who report conflict or turmoil comprise a strange community of people attracted by (or sent to) certain headlines. In difficult circumstance you see familiar faces. Often you work in close quarters and share drivers or information or cell phone chargers or Nescafe. You help, you compete, you protect, you argue, you worry.

And on days like this, you grieve.

Wed, February 22 2012 » Main Page, Media