In service of truth, women's voices ring clearly, courageously

Reporter Marie Colvin's most vivid memory of the conflict in East Timor last fall is the fearful stares she got from refugees whom she risked her life to help. "They knew that if I was still there, they had a chance to live, and if I left, they would probably die," she said this week, speaking of her choice to remain in a besieged United Nations compound that was sheltering the refugees when other journalists had left. Her dispatches from the terrifying situation helped save 1,500 people that the UN had not planned to rescue but ultimately did.

Ms. Colvin, an American who works for The Sunday Times in London, is one of three winners of this year's Courage in Journalism Awards presented by the Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation. Also honored on Tuesday at a ceremony in New York were Zamira Sydykova of Kyrgyzstan and Agnes Nindorera of Burundi.

Ms. Sydykova, founder and editor of the eight-year-old newspaper Res Publica, has been fined and sent to prison over stories she's published on poor factory conditions, corruption by business leaders, and the president's bank accounts. "People are awaiting my reports because truthful information is scarce in our country and it's becoming more so," she said through a translator.

A world away in Burundi, Ms. Nindorera, a radio journalist and producer, tries to report objectively from a country whose civil war between Tutsis and Hutus has lasted seven years and taken 200,000 lives, including more than 60 members of her own family. She's had equipment confiscated and been in the line of fire on several occasions. The thing she hangs onto is the importance of reporting the truth.

"Today more than ever, I'm convinced that the violence rocking my country cannot cease as long as truth has not triumphed over the lies and manipulation of information controlled by self-interested politicians and all those who profit from our war," Nindorera told the gathering in New York through a translator. "It is this conviction which gives me the courage to go on in my work as a journalist."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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