In little more than a week, three journalists have died in Syria, and a fourth lies in a makeshift hospital in the city of Homs, teetering between life and death. I want to pay homage to them simply by noting the courage it takes to do the work that they have done – and the importance of that work to all of us. They carry, not guns, but only pens, pads and cameras to record the stories of war’s victims. Not long ago, my friend Bob Caputo, who spent years as a photojournalist covering wars across the African continent, described trying to get into Mogadishu in the early 1990s to cover the Civil War in Somalia. His only way in was to hitch a ride on a plane from Nairobi that was carrying relief supplies to the war’s thousands of victims. Bob is a big man. With his equipment he probably weighed 250 pounds, which meant, he said, that if he were to get on the plane, 250 pounds of supplies would have to come off. And that raised the question: is what I am doing valuable enough to displace what that food and medicine could do? It was a moral gut check, and he concluded that the story of what was happening in Somalia had to be told to the world. When Bob finished talking, his cheeks were wet with his tears.
Anthony Shadid died last week, apparently of an asthma attack suffered while he was reporting from somewhere inside Syria. Two days ago, Marie Colvin, the one-eyed American war correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a young French photographer, were killed by rocket fire. French journalist Edith Bouvier may not make it out.
For more on Shadid, Colvin, Ochlik and Bouvier: