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Journalists on the Front Lines: Background information when reading In Extremis

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In Extremis

The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin

by Lindsey Hilsum

In Extremis by Lindsey Hilsum X
In Extremis by Lindsey Hilsum
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2018, 400 pages
    Nov 2019, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Journalists on the Front Lines

This article relates to In Extremis

Print Review

Hundreds of journalists and photographers have been killed in the line of duty, including Marie Colvin whose life story is told in In Extremis. The international Committee to Protect Journalists has been tallying data since 1992. As of 2018, more than 1,300 journalists have died while reporting on the job with more than 600 additional media workers killed (often near their homes or their offices) most likely as a result of their work. Sometimes motives for murder are murky, and the cases are never resolved. This is a global situation, where journalists working to develop their stories often encounter forces beyond their control. Here are a few who risked everything to bring stories to the world's attention. This is a small sample of so many, including, most recently (October 2018), Saudi exile Jamal Khashoggi who wrote for the Washington Post and was killed under mysterious circumstances. On December 23, 2019, 11 Saudi officials were convicted of Khashoggi's murder, but the trial proceedings have been widely criticized.

Remi OchlikRémi Ochlik (1983-2012) was an award-winning French photojournalist known for his work covering Haiti in 2004, and Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt during the Arab Spring. Rémi was with Marie Colvin in Syria when their hiding place was hit by a rocket; both were killed. Other foreign journalists with them (Paul Conroy, Edith Bouvier, and William Daniels) were seriously injured but did not die.

Rami Al-SayedRami Al-Sayed (1985-2012) was one of the most prolific videographers covering the early years of the Syrian revolution. The civilian journalist was based at the Baba Amr Media Center, and broadcast internationally via YouTube relayed by outlets including BBC and CNN. He is credited with bringing the deteriorating situation in Syria, especially civilian stories, to the world's attention. He was hurt during a shelling of Baba Amr and died hours later.

David BlundyDavid Blundy (1945-1989) British war correspondent and journalist, was killed by a sniper while covering the war in El Salvador. Blundy mentored Marie Colvin early in her career. When he left London's The Sunday Times in 1986, he encouraged the editors to hire Marie, and she became a superstar there.

Anna PolitkovskayaAnna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) reported on the conflict in Chechnya, exposing atrocities perpetrated by the Russian military. She lived in Moscow; her career included coverage of Chechnya and human rights issues in the post-Soviet world. She endured numerous threats, detentions, and at least one attempted poisoning. She was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building. The details are murky and the murder is considered unsolved, although several people have stood trial.

Daniel PearlDaniel Pearl (1963-2002) staff writer for the Wall Street Journal went to meet a source in Karachi, Pakistan and was kidnapped. He was later murdered by Al-Qadea in a widely-publicized decapitation. A humanitarian foundation bearing his name promotes tolerance through journalism and music. Pearl's life is also featured in the film A Mighty Heart (2007) based on a memoir by his widow, Mariane Pearl.

James FoleyJames Foley (1973-2014) was an American freelancer for several media outlets including Agence France-Pressee. He was abducted in Syria, held hostage for nearly two years, then killed by ISIL, which attempted to use his captivity and ransom demands to publicize their cause. The James Foley Legacy Foundation now advocates for the protection of independent journalists and encourages humanitarian efforts.

Kim HallKim Wall (1987-2017), a Swedish freelance journalist, covered stories worldwide including hot spots like North Korea and Uganda. At home in Copenhagen, she went alone to interview a high-profile inventor, Peter Madsen, on board his midget submarine one afternoon. She was never again seen alive; Madsen has been convicted of her sexual assault and murder.

Miroslava Breach VelduceaMiroslava Breach Velducea (1962-2017) covered human rights, corruption, cartels, Juarez's female homicides, and drug trafficking from Chihuahua, Mexico, where she lived with her children. She was gunned down in retaliation for her fearless and thorough reportage. Breach's death was only one among many in Mexico, which (along with Iraq and Syria) has one of the highest rates of journalist mortality in the 21st Century.

There's a sense of urgency about reporting from the front lines, bearing witness to humanity's extremes. While these journalists died too young, their work lives on in print, film, and foundations that carry forward their vision of a free press for a free world. Several nonprofits including Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans Frontières, the aforementioned Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International are actively engaged to protect freedom of expression and reporting worldwide.

Remi Ochlik, courtesy of (Photo by Lucas Dolega)
Rami Al-Sayed, courtesy of
David Blundy, courtesy of
Anna Politkovskaya
Daniel Pearl
James Foley, courtesy of
Kim Hall, courtesy of
Miroslava Breach Velducea, courtesy of

Article by Karen Lewis

This "beyond the book article" relates to In Extremis. It originally ran in November 2018 and has been updated for the November 2019 paperback edition.

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