MARIE Colvin, one of the keynote speakers at a literary event in the Borders last year, was “a brilliant and courageous journalist”, writes Andrew Keddie.
That tribute to the Sunday Times correspondent, who was killed by a Syrian army shell in the city of Homs last Wednesday, came from Anna Irvin of Beyond Borders which organised the two-day Books, Borders and Bikes festival at Traquair House last August.
“We are shocked and saddened by the news of Marie Colvin’s death,” said Ms Irvin. “She was a brilliant and courageous journalist who insisted on getting to the heart of the situation and staying with those worst affected, rather than leaving them stranded.
“She made an inspiring contribution to our festival programme last year with her perspective from the ground in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya during the Arab Spring and, in particular, the effects of the uprising on women in Misrata [in north-west Libya, 100 miles from Tripoli].”
David Coyle, from Ancrum, who was a sound technician at the Traquair event, said he had been “extremely moved” by Ms Colvin. “She was absolutely determined that war reporting must continue, despite the loss of so many journalists and media workers in recent conflicts,” said Mr Coyle. “On a personal level, she was a very warm, charismatic person.”
Ms Colvin was reporting on a secret humanitarian disaster in the north of Sri Lanka in 2001 when she was attacked by soldiers and lost her left eye to a shrapnel wound.
Earlier last month, she crossed into Syria on the back of a motocross motorcycle, defying attempts by the Syrian government to prevent foreign journalists covering the bloody uprising.
She was stationed in the western Baba Amr district 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” indiscriminate shelling and sniper attacks against civilian buildings and people on the streets of the city.
Colvin and award-winning French photographer Rémi Ochlik were killed on February 22 by a rocket while fleeing an unofficial media building which was being shelled.
Ms Irvin revealed that Beyond Borders would be paying tribute to Ms Colvin at this year’s festival.
The 2011 Traquair sessions, including Ms Colvin’s contributions, can be found in the video and podcast section of www.beyondbordersscotland.com