It has been open season on Journalists these past few months. Phone tapping, bribery, the ethics of protecting sources, intrusive surveillance and evasive non-co-operation with various Inquiries. And there's no doubt that some of the sharp edged criticism and public furore has been deserved, just and necessary to clean up a culture that is in danger of simply ignoring people's rights to privacy. protection and the weight of law to replace torn up boundaries and reinforce workable sanctions. That's all fine.
But the death of Marie Colvin shows Journalism at its very best as an essential vocation in a world where communication networks are now amongst the most potent social and political forces at work across the globe. Global politics are increasingly driven by global communications rapidly gaining in immediacy and pervasiveness. The facebook revolution is now a a widely available trigger for political revolution.
What Marie Colvin was doing was exposing the brutality and cruelty of Syria's President, government and military forces. Her last broadcast vibrated with barely restrained anger. Saint Exupery in Wind, Sand and Stars has a sentence which observes, sorrow and anger are the vibrations that remind us we are still alive. The bombardment of civilians is a war crime - there isn't even a debate about that. Pure and simple tanks, artillery and heavy machine guns turned on unarmed civilians is a violation of international law, a demonstration of inhumanity that must not go unchecked, and a clear signal for the international community to intervene.
To call the few hundred lightly armed militia an army, and justification for civilian slaughter is to use language in a way that exposes the moral bankruptcy of the Syrian Regime, and the equally shameful moral lethargy of the international community, including our own country. Just what has to happen in a country for the claims of humanity to supercede the interests of political expediency and the slow hand-wringing of sanctions and diplomatic toing and froing.
A Syrian besieged in the town of Homs spoke of Marie Colvin as a journalist who records and bears witness to the terrible happenings in the town. Fourteen shells landed in the first 30 seconds of the bombardment that started early morning and relentlessly continued throughout the day. But camera pictures, clear informed reporting, the courage and moral passion of the reporters, they are ways of documenting injustice, crimes against humanity, and will lead eventually to indictment. For such witness there is always a price.
Marie Colvin was killed along with several others, doing what was her calling - reporting, telling, bearing witness, calling power to account, and expressing the outrage of those who witness such unrestrained violence; appealing to those whose responsibility it is to uphold international law, to defend human rights, and maintain a world culture in which determined brutality meets an equally determined truth telling, and encounters a morally equipped opposition that represents the human face, human value, and the steadfast refusal to bystand.