Rémi Ochlik (AP/Julien de Rosa)

Recalling Rémi Ochlik, ‘a man of great value’

I liked Rémi a lot.

Rémi was fragile, yet he didn’t really try to conceal the fact. His fragility was his strength, a formidable one at that. Unlike so many journalists of today, Rémi was a true idealist, a rare mix of innocence and panache, compassion and bravery.

Just over a year ago one of his close friends, photographer Lucas Dolega, was fatally hit in the face by a grenade canister right next to us in a backstreet of Tunis; for three days he hung between life and death before finally passing away. I believe a part of Rémi died with Lucas: from that moment on, a sad mist cast a shadow over his light blue eyes.

Rémi was a good, a very good photographer, as he was emotionally driven to try and expose the injustices and evils of this world, unwilling to make any compromises. He was a wonderful anachronism in the small circle of war reporters. A refreshing mixture of D’Artagnan and Corto Maltese, young and tenacious, whatever the outcome…A modern day hero?

He probably would strongly disagree to that, but I use the word in the etymological and historical sense of “herald”: a man of great value in charge of conveying the most important messages of his time.

I urged Rémi several times to slow down, to at least take breaks between assignments, to try and protect himself emotionally, to avoid a pattern of forward free falling… He would argue, listen, agree to the facts, and inevitably, a few hours or days later, would leave again to another frontline assignment. I admired him for that.

He went on, relentlessly reporting and bringing the unjust fate of countless innocents to our front pages; one of the most prolific photographers working on the Arab Spring last year, his powerful images became as many thorns in the bellies of the rotten regimes he was constantly denouncing. Week after week, month after month, his pictures conveyed the testimony of a good man in bad places.

It is tragically befitting that, sharing the destiny of so many innocent Syrian civilians, he would be killed by the same shell that also killed the formidable veteran war reporter Marie Colvin: they were both among the best, angriest foreign correspondents of our time.

Marie and Rémi are not dead: under each of her words, behind each of his photographs, their pure hearts are beating strongly for a better future.