In war, truth demands a heavy price

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 February, 2012, 12:00am


What tragic irony for the profession of journalism when media baron Rupert Murdoch called Marie Colvin, 'one of the most outstanding foreign correspondents of her generation'!

Here is the man who has reinvented the modern gutter press paying tribute to a woman who died doing what is still noble about our job.

The veteran war correspondent for The Sunday Times was killed along with French photographer Remi Ochlik during the merciless pounding of the Syrian city of Homs by government forces. Ochlik and Colvin were a few western journalists who managed to sneak into Homs to report on the horrors and bring them to the attention of the outside world. For doing their job, they paid the ultimate price. Her last reports were of a seriously wounded baby taking his last breaths and of snipers taking merciless shots at civilians in the besieged city.

It was all very well when the international community issued warnings about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria. But it took reports like Colvin's for the world to see the face of human suffering. The bravest and best among us have always seen it as their job to give voice to the voiceless.

That is not what journalism is about for most people. Nowadays, it's usually associated with the bugging and corruption scandals at The Sun and the defunct News of the World, under Murdoch's media empire, or the often less-than-ethical standards of the Hong Kong tabloid press angling for a sensational story.

Not all of us are like that. Some 46 journalists were killed around the world last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and 44 in the year before. They shared the passion and courage of Colvin, but not necessarily her pay and prestige. Many laboured in obscurity and earned a meagre salary while working to expose corruption, injustices and atrocities. These gallant men and women remind us that journalism is not a dirty word.