Part II, A PRIVATE WAR: Bioethics meets the Guardians of Truth

Marie Colvin with Mike Wallace (CBS,60minutes) receiving the International Women in Journalism Award Media foundations in 2000.

Time Magazine designated “The Guardians of Truth,”  as its 2018 person of the year. The Guardians of Truth are journalists who risk it all to assure that those who might force their governments to make change have the information with which to guide their quest. Marie Colvin, the protagonist of  A PRIVATE WAR was a woman who notoriously defined the meaning of her life  and journalistic profession by her capacity, and that of her colleagues, to actualized Article 19 of the UDHR. (cf: A MIGHTY HEART). 

The United Nations is history’s best aim at the potential of human beings without the luxury of the naivety of a single generation’s overt success. Every document promoting human enlightenment, including the USA constitution, bears a statement supporting freedom of information. This is the result of the intuition that information is power and, without safeguards,  it will always be coveted by the most powerful to the detriment of the least. In precaution, The UDHR specifically states, in article 19 (of its 30), that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.  

It is a principle by which  Colvin lived and for which she was prepared to die.  Even with that, Colvin verbalized personal and professional responsibility on occasions when she missed the boat. She famously admonished her profession for not seeing the writing on the wall in Rwanda. One million Rwandan Tutsis were killed in only 100 days from April to July in 1994.Virtually no journalist understood and responded until too late.  Whether or not the world would do something about the massacre of innocents if made aware— Colvin knew that they certainly would not have the choice if they knew nothing of the offending incidents. This is because sans information, informed decisions cannot be made by individuals or societies. 

Shortly after in 1949 the Geneva Conventions were signed. Most of those atrocities were manifest using the technology which was created by scientist. In this way, the guardians of truth are not only journalist but those who understand science and its potential applications. The Syrian Journalists' Association (also members of the IFJ) has documented 153 journalists killed, in that country,  since the uprisings of 2011 which lead to the defection of  soldiers from the Syrian army in protest of the governments repressive regime. Among the journalist killed in Syria were American journalists Jim Sokol and James Foley in 2014, by beheading. In 2016, a United Nations official said 400,000 people had been killed in first five years of the Syrian civil war—the vast majority being noncombatants. At the time of this writing the president of the USA claims an unsubstantiated victory in Syria against ISIS and says he plans to pull  US troops out of the  country. 

As of March 2018, Lyn Maalouf, the Middle East research director for Amnesty International has stated that the "International community's catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict most notably the Syrian government to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with the assistance of outside powers."

Since 2012 when journalist Marie Colvin was intentionally targeted by the government of Syria, through transmissions from her satellite phone, the International Federation of journalist (IFJ) reports that more than 600 journalist have been killed around the world. Nine in 10 cases remain unpunished. Hundreds of journalist are imprisoned. 

Daily journalist are attacked, beaten, detained, harassed and threatened. Among women journalist surveyed in the 600,000 member IFJ, 24% have suffered physical attacks while working. Before those us in the USA shake their heads at the state of suppression of the press abroad, we must note that the US Present Freedom Tracker, since its launch in 2017, has documented 220 press freedom violations involving journalist and reporters have taken place in the USA.

Mathew  Heineman’s film pushes a  new audience of viewers to experience the world through journalist Marie Colvin’s eyes, emotions and suffering. She is not depicted as a superhero but a woman with flaws and scars who believed she could make a difference if she could get people to listen. A PRIVATE WAR adds  to Colvin’s enduring legacy and  reached out to those free to recognize and commit to protection of the most vulnerable victims of war. For Bioethicist and those who try to understand it, A PRIVATE WAR is a  “must see.”  The film is not only about a woman, or journalist but about an idea that that protects innocent third parties.