Syria’s uprising against the current regime of President Bashar Al-Assad has been bloody and has received worldwide attention for the disturbing scenes we see on our TV screens. The images of bloodshed are horrendous, but how many people consider the risk those who are exposed to this kind of abuse actually take? Journalists – whether in the newspaper business or on television, risk their lives to bring the truth forward. Many face great danger, especially in the city of Homs, where violence has been most dire.
In recent weeks, two Western journalists have been killed: American Marie Colvin, who was a columnist for the British newspaper The Sunday Times and French photographer Remi Ochlik. The pair were killed by a missile attack that destroyed the building Colvin and Ochlik were inside.
The attack also injured French journalist Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy, both of whom were employed by The Sunday Times. Bouvier and Conroy were stuck following the incident. According to the BBC, both have since been smuggled out of the country into neighboring Lebanon. Conroy, who worked with Colvin, has received substantial support from the UK. His wife called for his rescue and asked that the British government “forget the protocol” concerning their involvement in Syria. Initially, the British government responded “absolutely categoric[ally]” that a rescue operation for her husband was not possible. British pop singer Joss Stone, who is a close friend of Conroy, commented to the BBC that “if [Conroy] does not go out [to Syria] the story is not told, then the massacre would be worse. [Journalists] are saving lives just by being there.” Due to the nature of Colvin and Ochlik’s deaths, we must realize what journalists are risking to report back to the relatively complacent and comfortable Western World.
Stone added that despite “speaking from a selfish point of view [she] wants [her] best mate to talk to.” She added that Conroy is reporting from Syria “for a bigger, better, braver reason than what people realize. These stories have to be told.” Stone echoes what many in the journalistic field are doing by reporting such dangerous anti-tourist locations.
When asked in a 60 Minutes interview why journalists risk their lives in dangerous spots, Lara Logan, the CBS reporter sexually assaulted in Cairo last year, explained that “…they do it because they believe in being journalists.” This is a very important point when understanding a journalist’s drive in putting his or her life on the line, like Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik did. There is sense of duty involved; a journalist has to report back when he or she witnesses something like the Syrian conflict firsthand.
In effect, what both Stone and Logan say is that journalists know the dangers involved in reporting from war-torn parts of the world; therefore, should governments be prepared to risk protocol to protect those that report from war zones, fully aware of the possible consequences?
The examples of Colvin and Ochlik bring home the realities of reporting abroad, despite the glamorous nature that is often associated with becoming a foreign correspondent. This trend of reporters becoming the subject of tragic news has made the world more aware of the violence and bloodshed taking place in Syria, but it also brings the feeling of loss to our own shores. Whatever the repercussions of this unhappy trend, it is sadly not the biggest tragedy the Syrian people have seen in recent months, a time in which many have lost their lives standing up to a government they no longer believe in. There are other journalists that have been and others that likely will be affected by this and other conflicts. But for the sake of good journalism, this sort of incident never has and never will prevent reporters from going out and reporting on world events, no matter where the danger might be.