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As Journalists Become Targets, the Need to ‘Bear Witness’ Continues

Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario spoke with Christopher Dickey about the late Marie Colvin, and the life of a female war correspondent.

Christopher Dickey called Marie Colvin the “greatest war correspondent of our generation.” She fearlessly covered the front lines in Kosovo, Baghdad, Sri Lanka, Libya, and, tragically, Syria, where she was killed in the siege of Homs. In a tribute to Colvin, Dickey interviewed Pulitzer-Prize-winning photogrpaher Lynsey Addario, who also covered the Libyan revolution and was captured by Muammar Gaddafi’s troops.

Addario was with the late New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid and another colleague when they were captured by Gaddafi’s troops, who had been told all international journalists were spies. They were beaten and Addario was groped as they were held at the front lines, with artillery falling around them. “I think now we are the target,” Addario said. “The governments in the Arab Spring don’t like having what’s going on documented. I believe Marie Colvin was targeted.”

It’s a dangerous time to be a war correspondent, but Addario said it’s not any more dangerous for women than for men. “There are fewer women in the field,” she told Dickey, “but when the bullets are flying there’s no advantage to being a man.” In fact, there may be an advantage to being a woman. When Addario was 26, she saved her money and travelled to Afghanistan to find out how women were living under Taliban rule. “I had great access because as a woman I could enter family’s homes and the Taliban could not.”

Addario has had to confront people’s prejudices about female correspondents. When she tried to cover the Korval Valley in Afghanistan with Elizabeth Rubin, people told her the base wasn’t fit for women. Still, the pair went, and after two months of seven-hour patrols, the troops no longer questioned whether the journalists could handle the trials of battle. “They told us we changed their view of women,” says Addario. “They never thought we could keep up with them and sleep on the side of a mountain.”

Addario now has a 10-week-old baby. “Are you going to keep doing this?” asked Dickey. “Do you ask men that question?” Addario fired back, which received the biggest applause line of the night. “No one asks men that question. I’ve had that question 300 times in the last 10 weeks. My colleague Shadid just died and he has two children that don’t have a father,” she said. “We have to be there to bear witness to what’s happening.”