Reporting on a bloody conflict

Thursday 23 February 2012 12.58
Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlikthe are casualties of a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives
Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlikthe are casualties of a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives

The uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March. That is almost a year ago. In that time over 5,000 people have been killed.

It has been the longest and bloodiest of the Arab Spring uprisings and one of the most difficult to report.

The deaths of renowned war reporter Marie Colvin and award winning photographer Remi Ochlik have focused attention on the brutality of the attack by the Assad regime on his own people.

Baba Amr is a district to the west of the city of Homs in central Syria. This city and this district have been bombarded by Syrian shells for weeks now. It reached maximum intensity in recent days, a pounding that rarely stopped.

Reporting Syria

Foreign media is banned from Syria. There are two ways in, officially with minders from the regime, or undercover. Both are risky. Only last month a French journalist died when a shell exploded during a visit to Homs organised by the authorities.

Marie Colvin fervently believed that the reality of war should be reported and the world should sit up, listen and act. Doing that job led to her death alongside 28-year-old Remi Ochlik in the makeshift media base in which they were staying.

Social Media

In the absence of independent media much of the material from Syria is emerging through social media. Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook and Audioboo and are being used by desperate Syrians to tell their stories to the world.

Verifying this material is difficult, but possible. It is helped in a huge way by the foreign correspondents who have courageously confronted the dangers and crossed into frontline positions.

Their eyewitness reports from cities like Homs confirm the reality of the amateur video horrors sent from Syria.

For television stations there is an added dilemma with new media. The reality of war is just a click of a switch away on the internet. It is there online for anyone to see, but how much should we show to a mainstream teatime audience of all ages on national television?

Graphic footage

We sometimes use the word graphic to describe the footage we broadcast. It is just that, but it is also mild compared to the raw material we see daily, of bloody civilian deaths.

They happen in real time, men, women and children fading before our eyes with the most hideous wounds. They have been dying like this daily in Syria since this conflict began.

Two western journalists who had been witnessing those horrors up close and personal are now among the thousands of people who have died in this 11 month conflict.

It has been almost a year, 12 months, in which the world has not intervened to stop the bloodshed.