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War reporters honoured with memorial

Australian Associated Press - September 23, 2015

Without war correspondents to tell the truth, all we'd be told are official lies, says Shirley Shackleton, widow of reporter Greg Shackleton who was murdered while reporting from East Timor.

So for her, the dedication of a new memorial to Australia's war correspondents in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial was a deeply moving occasion.

This was the culmination of more than a decade of work by the CEW Bean Foundation, named after Charles Bean – official correspondent throughout World War I and later editor of the WWI official history.

Mrs Shackleton, a tireless campaigner for justice over the murder of her husband and four other Australian correspondents in East Timor in 1975, laid a wreath on the memorial on behalf of all those reporters who have lost their lives.

"If it hadn't been for Mr Bean we would have got an official version of Gallipoli which would have been lies, as official versions are," Mrs Shackleton said. "Journalism is as important as any other great profession in the world, highly underestimated especially by governments."

Accompanying her was Peter Greste, representing Australia's current war correspondents. The Al-Jazeera journalist spent 13 months in an Egyptian jail on trumped-up charges of collaborating with a terrorist organisation.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, himself a former journalist, said Australia is one of the oldest democracies in the world, and it depends on many institutions.

"But none is more important than a free and courageous press and today we are honouring war correspondents and, in doing so, we are honouring the freedom they have worked so hard to preserve," Mr Turnbull said.

The event attracted several veteran correspondents, among them Tim Page, the colourful British-born photographer who captured some of the iconic images of the Vietnam War.

Page lost his best friend, photographer Sean Flynn, son of actor Errol Flynn, when he disappeared in Cambodia in 1971.

So what is it about being a war correspondent that appeals? "There is an incredible sense of when you survive a moment, when you survive a battle, you can walk proud and tall," Page told reporters. "You have something to come back to the bar and talk about."

Source: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/09/23/15/55/war-reporters-honoured-with-memorial