WASHINGTON — Relatives of the late Marie Colvin, the famed foreign correspondent who grew up on Long Island and worked for the British newspaper The Sunday Times, have filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that Syrian government officials targeted and killed her in 2012 to silence her reporting on Syria and the besieged city of Homs.
The lawsuit says Syrian officials launched a rocket attack on a makeshift broadcast studio in a neighborhood of Homs. Colvin, 56, a veteran correspondent for The Sunday Times, died in that attack along with French photojournalist Remi Ochlik.
Colvin, who grew up in East Norwich and was a graduate of Oyster Bay High School, was killed Feb. 22, 2012. Just hours before her death, she filed another report on the Syrian government’s crackdown and its impact on civilians. The attack by Syrian army forces also killed several activists.
At the time, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that circumstantial evidence and witnesses pointed to the possibility that government forces had taken deliberate action that led to the deaths of Colvin and Ochlik. More than two dozen journalists were reported killed in Syria in 2012 alone.
The wrongful-death lawsuit — filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by Cathleen Colvin, Marie Colvin’s sister, and Justine Araya-Colvin, the reporter’s niece — said the Assad regime “hunted down journalists and media activists” who were trying to tell the story of the government’s deadly crackdown on Syrian rebels.
The government has contended that its attacks targeted terrorists.
The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, said there were no lawful military targets in the vicinity of the media center at the time of the attack and no armed rebels were present in or around the center. The occupants targeted by the Assad regime were unarmed civilians, the suit claims.
Colvin, in her final broadcast from Homs, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “It’s a complete and utter lie they’re only going after terrorists. The Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.”
The Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, honoring her life and legacy, was established in Stony Brook University’s Department of Journalism with seed money from a memorial foundation created by her family.
The center teaches a specialized curriculum, including courses in the history of foreign reporting, hostile environment training and international news literacy. It seeks to educate the next generation of overseas journalists, holds a lecture series in Colvin’s name and rewards tenacious overseas reporting with a journalist-in-residence fellowship.