Marie Colvin remembered

Award-winning Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin has been killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

Hannah Storm, deputy director of the International News Safety Institute, reflects on Ms Colvin's remarkable life and work, as well as the perils of reporting in some of the most dangerous regions on the planet.

Marie ColvinPA Wire

When Marie Colvin spoke to a friend from the Syrian city of Homs this weekend, she said it was "the worst they'd ever seen". Superlative words from a veteran war correspondent who, according to this same friend, "had seen everything".

Marie knew more than most the dangers that accompany reporting in the world's darkest and most dangerous places, having lost an eye from a shrapnel wound during her reporting from Sri Lanka in 2001.

She was a brave, intelligent and well-prepared war correspondent, who assessed the risks and did the groundwork, made the contacts and carefully ensured that she did what she could to keep safe and to keep those with whom she worked, and on whom she reported, safe too.

But she knew that covering war is never entirely risk free.

And like Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who died in the Libyan city of Misrata last year, Marie found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a city besieged, where munitions where flying, this weekend's article that she wrote for the Sunday Times provided a harrowing harbinger of what was to come.

In it, she described how the people of Homs told her, they "live in fear of a massacre". She ended her piece quoting one of them as saying "We feel so abandoned. They've given Bashar al-Assad the green light to kill us."

She and the talented French photographer Remi Ochlick were killed when a shell crashed into a makeshift media centre set up by anti-regime activists in the Baba Amr district of Homs. Several other journalists are believed to have been wounded in the early morning shelling.

Marie Colvin is the second high profile journalist to die in Syria this month. Last week the Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died after suffering an asthma attack.

Both had taken extreme risks entering a country such as Syria, where the army is pursuing a brutal campaign to quell resistance to the regime. They are not the only brave journalists to have done so. Throughout the Arab Spring, many news teams have defied incredible odds to cover the human tales of what happens when autocratic ruling powers attempt to crush dissent. And in so doing, 29 journalists and media workers have paid the ultimate price, dying for the story.

The inexorable rise of social media during the events of Arab Spring has helped tell the story in many ways, but it has somehow also raised the stakes for traditional journalism, pushing some to take greater risks to bring home the news. With social media, news is now instant and constant. Everyone can potentially be a journalist, and those who already are journalists have access to many more sources of different information.

But for a number of brave journalists like Marie Colvin, the only way to do the job is to experience war alongside those who suffer.

It takes someone extraordinary to risk their own lives to enter a country via a smugglers' route, dodge gunfire and shelling and then huddle amongst the inhabitants of Homs to tell their story, as Marie did - becoming the only British newspaper journalist in Homs.

Her friend Peter Bouckaert, from Human Rights Watch, paid tribute to her, saying: "For Marie, covering war wasn't about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story. She experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience.

"But despite everything she had seen and experienced, first and foremost she remained a wonderful human being, and it always put a smile on my face to run into her in one of the world's rough spots. She contacted me yesterday not because she wanted to boast about reaching Homs, but because she wanted to reach out to people she thought could make a difference to the people of Homs."

At the International News Safety Institute, we pay tribute to all those brave men and women who risk their lives reporting from dangerous situations. We're marking the role played by women journalists, in particular, with the launch of No Woman's Land: On the Frontlines With Female Reporters on 8 March, International Women's Day. The book is the first to be dedicated to the safety of female journalists. We will be paying tribute to Marie Colvin at the launch.

Hannah Storm is deputy director of the International News Safety Institute, which can be followed on Twitter @newssafety