In view of its Freedom to Write mandate, PEN Center USA wishes to recognize several writers whose deaths in recent weeks mark a major loss to the writing community. Their contributions to journalism and unwavering commitment to the necessity of free speech were both progressive and extraordinary.


Anthony Shadid, an American journalist and most recently the New York Times Bureau Chief in Beirut, died on February 16, 2012, of an asthma attack in Syria.

As a correspondent for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and The Boston Globe, Shadid earned a reputation for empathy and for in-depth analysis of conflicts in the Middle East. In 2002, Shadid was shot in the shoulder while reporting from the West Bank. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting twice for his work covering the Iraq war.

On March 16, 2011, Shadid and three colleagues were captured in Libya while reporting on the rebellions there. They were held for six days and beaten before the Libyan government released them.

Undeterred by this experience, Shadid crossed the border into Syria last week where, on a covert mission,  he gathered information on the political repression of its citizens. He died making his way out of the country.

Marie Colvin, an American journalist who had written for The Sunday Times in Britain since 1985, died in a rocket attack on February 22, 2012, while covering the siege of Homs in Syria.

Colvin was known for reporting in conflict zones from Chechnya to the Middle East. She lost sight in one eye while reporting on the Sri Lankan Civil War, but nevertheless returned to Sri Lanka to testify on war crimes. In 2011, while reporting on the Libyan conflict, Colvin conducted the first international interview with Muammar Gaddafi.

At the start of this month, Colvin illegally crossed into Syria on the back of a motocross motorcycle, despite the pledge by the Syrian army to kill "any journalist who set foot on Syrian soil."

Her last article on the Syrian conflict - a detailed account filled with intimate statements from dozens of Syrian citizens - was published two days before her death.

Remi Ochlik was a French photojournalist, killed alongside Colvin during the rocket bombardment in Homs this week. At 20 years old, Ochlik's career began when he covered the riots in Haiti in 2004. He moved on to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, then returned to Haiti in 2010 to cover the cholera epidemic and the presidential elections.

Ochlik photographed the frontlines of the Arab Spring, covering the revolutions in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt and the war zones in Libya and Syria.

Two weeks before his death, Ochlik won first prize in the prestigious 2012 World Press Photo contest for his 12-photograph series, "Battle for Libya."


Sources: BBC News, The New York Times (1), The New York Times (2), The Sunday Times.