French photojournalist Ochlik and American-born correspondent Marie Colvin were killed when their makeshift press center in Homs was struck during shelling of the city by Syrian forces, news reports said. Ochlik was reporting on the Syrian conflict as a freelancer. The central city was under the 19th consecutive day of intense bombardment by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
At least three other journalists were reported injured. Paul Conroy, a Sunday Times photographer, and Edith Bouvier, a reporter for Le Figaro, suffered leg wounds in the strike, news reports said. William Daniels, another photographer for The Sunday Times, was slightly injured, according to news reports.
By controlling local news reports and expelling or denying entry to dozens of international journalists, the Syrian government had sought to impose a blackout on independent news coverage after the country’s uprising began in early 2011. Despite extremely high risk, international journalists smuggled themselves into Syria to cover the conflict.
In support of a lawsuit Marie Colvin’s family filed against the Syrian government, the Center of Justice and Accountability, a U.S.-based legal charity, compiled evidence alleging that Assad’s regime targeted and assassinated foreign journalists. In the unsealed documents, a former Syrian intelligence agent, referred to as “Ulysses,” stated that the Syrian military actively sought out journalists’ locations in Homs by intercepting satellite communications coming out of the makeshift media center, in addition to deploying informants on the ground. After the media center was shelled, Ulysses alleged that high-ranking members of the Syrian military celebrated the attack and some officials were rewarded for the “successful operation.” One received a new car, while another was promoted.
Conroy, the photographer who survived the attack, testified that—as a veteran of the British army—he recognized the pattern of the Syrian army’s rockets as “bracketing,” a military tactic that ensured shells hit their intended target.
A U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2019 found the Syrian government culpable in the killing of Colvin, and ordered the government to pay US$302.5 million to her family, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. According to the opinion, the court found that the Syrian government "discovered that foreign journalists were broadcasting reports from a Media Center in Baba Amr" and "launched an artillery attack against it, for the purpose of killing the journalists inside."
Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in favor of the complaint by members of Colvin’s family that her death was an extrajudicial killing in violation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, AFP reported.
Born in 1983, Ochlik had covered the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions of 2011 and the 2011 war in Libya, according to his website. His work had appeared in Le Monde, VSD, Paris Match, Time, and The Wall Street Journal, his website said.