Marie Catherine Colvin
January 12, 1956
New York City, U.S.
|Died||February 22, 2012 (aged 56)|
|Cause of death||Bombardment|
|Spouse(s)||Patrick Bishop (divorced)|
(m. 1996; died 2002)
Marie Catherine Colvin (January 12, 1956 – February 22, 2012) was an American journalist who worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death. She died while covering the siege of Homs in Syria.
After her death, Stony Brook University established the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting in her honor. Her family also established the Marie Colvin Memorial Fund through the Long Island Community Foundation, which strives to give donations in Marie's name in honor of her humanitarianism.
In July 2016, lawyers representing Colvin's family filed a civil action against the government of the Syrian Arab Republic claiming they had obtained proof that the Syrian government had directly ordered her assassination, leading to a judge finding the Syrian government guilty of her assassination in early 2019, awarding Colvin's family $302 million in damages.
Early life and education
Marie Colvin was born in Astoria, Queens, New York, and grew up in East Norwich in the town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County, on Long Island. Her father, William J. Colvin, was a Marine Corps veteran of WWII and an English teacher in New York City public schools. He was also active in Democratic politics in Nassau County. He served as Deputy County Executive under Eugene Nickerson. Her mother, Rosemarie Marron Colvin, was a high school guidance counselor in Long Island public schools. She had two brothers, William and Michael, and two sisters, Aileen and Catherine. She graduated from Oyster Bay High School in 1974, spending her junior year of high school abroad on an exchange program in Brazil and later attended Yale University. She was an anthropology major but took a course with the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Hersey.
Colvin also started writing for the Yale Daily News "and decided to be a journalist," her mother said. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in anthropology in 1978. During her time at Yale, Colvin was known for her strong personality and quickly established herself as a "noise-maker" on campus.
Colvin worked briefly for a labor union in New York City, before starting her journalism career with United Press International (UPI), a year after graduating from Yale. She worked for UPI first in Trenton, then New York and Washington. In 1984, Colvin was appointed Paris bureau manager for UPI, before moving to The Sunday Times in 1985.
From 1986, she was the newspaper's Middle East correspondent, and then from 1995 was the Foreign Affairs correspondent. In 1986, she was the first to interview Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after Operation El Dorado Canyon. Gaddafi said in this interview that he was at home when U.S. planes bombed Tripoli in April 1986, and that he helped rescue his wife and children while "the house was coming down around us". Gaddafi also said reconciliation between Libya and the United States was impossible so long as Ronald Reagan was in the White House. "I have nothing to say to him (Reagan)", he said, "because he is mad. He is foolish. He is an Israeli dog."
Specialising in the Middle East, she also covered conflicts in Chechnya, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and East Timor. In 1999 in East Timor, she was credited with saving the lives of 1,500 women and children from a compound besieged by Indonesian-backed forces. Refusing to abandon them, she stayed with a United Nations force, reporting in her newspaper and on television. They were evacuated after four days. She won the International Women's Media Foundation award for Courage in Journalism for her coverage of Kosovo and Chechnya. She wrote and produced documentaries, including Arafat: Behind the Myth for the BBC. She is featured in the 2005 documentary film Bearing Witness.
Colvin lost the sight in her left eye while reporting on the Sri Lankan Civil War. She was struck by a blast from a Sri Lankan Army rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) on April 16, 2001, while crossing from a Tamil Tigers-controlled area to a Government-controlled area; thereafter she wore an eyepatch. She was attacked even after calling out "journalist, journalist!" She told Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News that her attacker "knew what he was doing." Despite sustaining serious injuries, Colvin, who was 45 at the time, managed to write a 3,000 word article on time to meet the deadline. She had walked over 30 miles (48 km) through the Vanni jungle with her Tamil guides to evade government troops; she reported on the humanitarian disaster in the northern Tamil region, including a government blockade of food, medical supplies and prevention of foreign journalist access to the area for six years to cover the war. Colvin later suffered post traumatic stress disorder and required hospitalisation following her injuries.
She was also a witness and an intermediary during the final days of the war in Sri Lanka and reported on war crimes against Tamils that were committed during this phase. Several days after her wounding, the Sri Lankan government said it would allow foreign journalists to travel in rebel-held zones. The director of Government information, Ariya Rubasinghe, stated that: "Journalists can go, we have not debarred them, but they must be fully aware of and accept the risk to their lives."
In 2011, while reporting on the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, she was offered an opportunity to interview Gaddafi again, along with two other journalists that she could nominate. For Gaddafi's first international interview since the start of the war, Colvin took along Christiane Amanpour of ABC News and Jeremy Bowen of BBC News.
Colvin noted the importance of shining a light on "humanity in extremes, pushed to the unendurable", stating: "My job is to bear witness. I have never been interested in knowing what make of plane had just bombed a village or whether the artillery that fired at it was 120mm or 155mm."
Colvin twice married journalist Patrick Bishop; both marriages ended in divorce. She also married a Bolivian journalist, Juan Carlos Gumucio, a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El País in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. He took his own life in February 2002 in Bolivia, following depression and alcoholism.
Colvin lived in Hammersmith, West London.
Death and legacy
In February 2012, Colvin crossed into Syria on the back of a motocross motorcycle, ignoring the Syrian government's attempts to prevent foreign journalists from entering Syria to cover the Syrian Civil War without permission. Colvin was stationed in the western Baba Amr district of the city of Homs, and made her last broadcast on the evening of February 21, appearing on the BBC, Channel 4, CNN and ITN News via satellite phone. She described "merciless" shelling and sniper attacks against civilian buildings and people on the streets of Homs by Syrian forces. Speaking to Anderson Cooper, Colvin described the bombardment of Homs as the worst conflict she had ever experienced.
Colvin died on February 22, alongside photojournalist Rémi Ochlik. An autopsy conducted in Damascus by the Syrian government concluded Marie Colvin was killed by an "improvised explosive device filled with nails." The Syrian government claims the explosive device was planted by terrorists on February 22, 2012, while fleeing an unofficial media building which was being shelled by the Syrian Army. This account was rejected by photographer Paul Conroy, who was with Colvin and Ochlik and survived the attack. Conroy recalled that Colvin and Ochlik were packing their gear when Syrian artillery fire hit their media centre.
Journalist Jean-Pierre Perrin and other sources reported that the building had been targeted by the Syrian Army, identified using satellite phone signals. Their team had been planning an exit strategy a few hours prior.
On the evening of February 22, 2012, people of Homs mourned in the streets in honour of Colvin and Ochlik. Tributes were paid to Colvin across the media industry and political world following her death.
Colvin's personal possessions came with her. This included a backpack containing basic supplies and a 387-page manuscript by her lifelong friend, Gerald Weaver. Colvin's sister, Cathleen 'Cat' Colvin along with Sean Ryan, then foreign editor of The Sunday Times, helped to have his book published.
Colvin's funeral took place in Oyster Bay, New York, on March 12, 2012, in a service attended by 300 mourners including those who had followed her dispatches, friends and family. She was cremated and half of her ashes were scattered off Long Island, and the other half on the River Thames, near her last home.
In July 2016, Cat Colvin filed a civil action against the government of the Syrian Arab Republic for extrajudicial killing claiming she had obtained proof that the Syrian government had directly ordered Colvin's targeted assassination. In April 2018, the accusations were revealed on court papers filed by her family. In January 2019, an American court ruled that the Syrian government was liable for Colvin's death and ordered that they pay $300m in punitive damages. The judgement stated that Colvin was "specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country. [The] murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide. A targeted murder of an American citizen, whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of war zones and of wars generally, is outrageous, and therefore a punitive damages award that multiples the impact on the responsible state is warranted."
In 2018, a film based on Colvin's life, A Private War, directed by Matthew Heineman, written by Arash Amel, and starring Rosamund Pike as Colvin, was released, based on the 2012 article "Marie Colvin's Private War" in Vanity Fair Magazine by Marie Brenner. While being interviewed in 2021, Chris Terrio, who wrote the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, stated that Lois Lane's arc in the film was inspired by Colvin.
- 2000 – Journalist of the Year, Foreign Press Association
- 2000 – Courage in Journalism, International Women's Media Foundation
- 2001 – Foreign Reporter of the Year, British Press Awards
- 2009 – Foreign Reporter of the Year, British Press Awards
- 2012 – Anna Politkovskaya Award, Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR)
- 2012 – Foreign Reporter of the Year, British Press Awards
- List of journalists killed during the Syrian civil war
- Girls of the Sun, a 2018 French film with the main protagonist inspired by Marie Colvin
- A Private War, a 2018 American biographical film about Marie Colvin
- Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
- "Witnesses: Libyan government forces shelling civilian areas of Misrata". cnn.com. April 25, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- "Marie Colvin "A Woman of Valor"". Long Island Community Foundation. Archived from the original on January 12, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- "Syria found liable for US reporter's death". BBC News. January 31, 2019 – via www.bbc.com.
- Ramos, Víctor Manuel (March 5, 2012). "Marie Colvin's body due back on Long Island Tuesday". Newsday. Long Island. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
Born in Astoria, Queens, Colvin, 56, grew up in East Norwich and attended high school in Oyster Bay.
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- "Sri Lanka To Allow Press Into Areas". Associated Press. April 22, 2001. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
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- Bowen, Jeremy (March 1, 2011). "Col Gaddafi 'brushed off the international pressure'". BBC News.
- "Video: Marie Colvin's last call to CNN". CNN. February 22, 2012.
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- "'Foreign journalists killed' in Homs shelling". Al Jazeera. February 22, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "Veteran war reporter Marie Colvin killed in Syria". Channel 4. UK. February 22, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
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- "War reporter Marie Colvin was tracked, targeted and killed by Assad's forces, family says". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
- "Syria 'assassinated reporter Marie Colvin'". BBC News. April 10, 2018.
- correspondent, Owen Bowcott Legal affairs (January 31, 2019). "US court finds Assad regime liable for Marie Colvin's death in Syria" – via www.theguardian.com.
- "Series 2, Episode 16: Paul Conroy". Channel 4 News. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- Carey, Matthew (December 22, 2017). "Director Matthew Heineman On His Oscar-Shortlisted Doc 'City Of Ghosts': "The Hardest Film I've Made By Far"". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Galuppo, Mia (November 21, 2017). "Tom Hollander Joins Rosamund Pike in 'A Private War'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- N'Duka, Amanda (November 21, 2017). "Tom Hollander Enlists In 'A Private War'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
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- Breznican, Anthony (April 8, 2021). "'Justice League' Screenwriter Chris Terrio Is Super Pissed Off". Vanity Fair. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
- Conroy, Paul (October 8, 2013). Under the Wire: Marie Colvin's Final Assignment. Hachette Books. p. 344. ISBN 9781602862364.
- Leith, Denise (2004). Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists. Random House Australia. pp. 92f. ISBN 1-74051-260-X.
- Mills, Eleanor (2005). "Marie Colvin, 1957–". Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Journalism by Women. London, UK: Constable. pp. 152f. ISBN 1-84529-165-4.
- On the Front Line : The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin. HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780007487967
- Hilsum, Lindsey (2018). In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. p. 400. ISBN 9780374175597.
- Marie Colvin at IMDb
- Colvin, Marie (February 19, 2012). "Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on February 22, 2012.
- Nordland, Rod; Cowell, Alan (February 22, 2012). "Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling". The New York Times.
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- Nir, Sarah Maslin (March 13, 2012). "At Funeral, Recalling Many Sides of Reporter". The New York Times.
- Bowen, Jeremy (December 22, 2012). "The consummate war reporter, Colvin was kind, funny, brave and empathetic". The Guardian.