ISIS has killed 17 Iraqi journalists over past 10 months

Mohanad al-Aqidi (left), who is said to have been shot, and Raad Mohamed al-Azaoui, who was publicly beheaded. Photograph: Journalists Without Borders
Mohanad al-Aqidi (left), who is said to have been shot, and Raad Mohamed al-Azaoui, who was publicly beheaded. Photograph: Journalists Without Borders

Much attention was given to the recent killings of Steven Sotloff and James Foley by the hands of ISIS, and deservedly so. Their executions are a chilling reminder of the risks faced by journalists covering the world’s most dangerous places. But little has been written about the many other non-western journalists who have been kidnapped and killed by ISIS over the past year. In the past 10 months, the Guardian reports, as many as 17 Iraqi journalists have been executed by ISIS, sometimes in public beheadings.

Reporters Without Borders remains one of the best sources for information about the dangers to journalists working in ISIS territory and around the world. Here are some reports on killings of local journalists by ISIS militants over the past year:

  • Confusion About Iraqi Journalist’s Reported Death In Mosul
  • ISIS – Major Threat To Media Freedom In Both Iraq And Syria
  • Three Citizen-journalists Among Hostages Executed By ISIS
  • Islamic State Publicly Executes Iraqi Cameraman In Samarra
  • Jihadi Group Kills Iraqi Cameraman In Northern Syria
  • ISIS Threatening To Execute Iraqi Journalists (one of these journalists was reported killed last week)
  • First Media Victims Of ISIS Offensive
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists, another great source for this sort of information, reports that at least 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria since 2011, and about 20, mostly Syrian, journalists remain in captivity there. While ISIS has been in its current state only since about 2013, many of the journalists kidnapped in Syria between 2011 and 2013, including James Foley, ended up in ISIS’ hands.

    US Forest Service may require photography permits for journalists in wilderness areas

    A sign posted by the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management indicates the start of public land north of Ingomar, Montana. - © M. Scott Brauer
    A BLM sign marks the edge of public land north of Ingomar, Montana. – © M. Scott Brauer

    UPDATE (25 Sept. 2014): The US Forest Service has extended the comment period and delayed the rules regarding photography permits amid growing public outcry.

    Original post: The US Forest Service seems to have taken a page from so-called Ag-Gag laws around the country; rules will be finalized this November requiring reporters to apply and pay for a permit to shoot video or photos in designated federal wilderness areas. According to this OregonLive report, permits may cost up to $1,500, though, oddly, the penalty for taking photos without a permit will only go up to $1,000. The acting director of the US Forest Service told OregonLive that the policies, which have been “temporarily” in place for 4 years, are part of the organizations efforts to protect wilderness areas from being commercially exploited as designated under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

    The International Business Times also has coverage of the proposed rules, including thoughts from NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher. I join with Osterreicher and other free press advocates in thinking that these rules are a substantial restriction on constitutional rights and should be abandoned. While I can understand a need to regulate, for instance, large-scale film crews using federal land for Hollywood productions, it’s ridiculous to require journalists to apply and pay for permission to take pictures on wilderness land.

    The Bureau of Land Management, some of whose land appears in my photograph above, does not require permits for photography.

    You can comment on the proposed rules regarding permits for stills and video until November 3, 2014.

    Related: A Kitsap Sun reporter had odd restrictions placed on him while covering efforts to save a historic building in Olympic National Park. He was prevented from speaking to people involved in the story, held back from the scene, and otherwise hassled during what should have been a pretty straightforward and non-confrontational reporting assignment. You can read Tristan Baurick’s final piece on the effort here.

    (via friends on facebook)

    Remembering James Foley and other journalists still missing

    James Foley was my middle school teacher in a very poor neighborhood and all I want to say is thank you Mr. Foley you helped shape me into the man I am today….This man always preached being open and respectful to other cultures. It’s unfortunate that his openness lead to this.”
    -Reddit user wheelchaircharlie

    We have been following the disappearance of James Foley since he went missing in Syria in November 2012, a story that has been documented on the website FreeJamesFoley.org, and now we are sad to report that he has been brutally killed. ISIS (or ISIL) militants released a video yesterday showing the beheading of James Foley, though when and where the murder occurred remains uncertain. The White House has confirmed the authenticity of the video and President Obama said in a statement today that “the future is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”


    I won’t link to the video (or watch it, myself), but thought it’d be worthwhile to link to some remembrances of James Foley and his reporting. I never knew him, but he was a friend and colleague of many of my friends. By all accounts, he was a great guy filled with kindness and a passion for sharing his knowledge and talents. He will be missed.

    The video also reportedly shows another journalist held captive by ISIL. These images have informed the first public reports that reporter Steven Sotloff was being detained in Syria. It is worth noting that information about individuals who have been kidnapped is often held secret for their safety and in hopes of aiding negotiations for their release. This extends to journalists reporting about their colleagues who are in danger, with a reluctance to discuss, report or reveal information publicly.

    James Foley, Aleppo, Syria - 07/12. Photo: Nicole Tung.
    James Foley, Aleppo, Syria – 07/12. Photo: Nicole Tung.

    Here are a few posts that we have been reading after news of Foley’s killing:

  • These Are the Stories James Foley Risked His Life to Tell: Patrick Reis at the National Journal shares some of Foley’s work
  • A reddit user going by wheelchaircharlie recalls the impact James Foley had on him when Foley was a Teach for America fellow in Arizona in 1996. (another user questioned whether it was the same James Foley, but a Teach for America post about Foley’s kidnapping confirms the connection)
  • Writing in May 2013, Clare Morgana Gillis remembers her friendship with James Foley. Gillis and Foley were detained alongside each other in Libya in 2011.
  • Max Fisher recalls working to get Foley and other kidnapped journalists released after their capture in Libya in 2011.
  • James Foley speaks to students at Medill School of Journalism‘s Gertrude and G.D. Crain Jr. Lecture Series at Northwestern University in 2011.
  • Foley’s family have released a moving statement about his life and death, underscoring their love for him and his dedication to the story. (also on the Free James Foley Facebook page)
  • CNN has collected some remembrances (← warning: auto-playing video) of Foley by colleagues and friends.
  • The New York Daily News has also collected remembrances and photos posted to twitter by colleagues and friends.
  • Foley wrote to his alma mater, Marquette University, after his release from captivity in Libya in 2011.
  • Amnesty International has published a report called “‘Beheading’ of US reporter a war crime that highlights ‘chilling’ risk to journalists”.
  • Uri Friedman writes in The Atlantic about Foley’s desire to get closer to the story in Syria when so few other journalists would.
  • It’s also worth remembering the many other journalists, aid workers and contractors still missing around the world, and the many who have been killed this year. Men’s Journal has a good, short refresher about what they call “The Forgotten Hostage Crisis.” As always, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders remain essential reading for keeping up to date on this issue. The CPJ reports that 30 reporters and photographers have been killed so far in 2014.


    There’s also a good discussion to be had about the ethics and effects of publishing images from militants’ propaganda videos. Many journalists, across our networks on Facebook and Twitter, have urged their colleagues to refrain from publishing any images of Foley’s execution contending that publishing images of this act only serves to perpetuate ISIS’ terror. Likewise, social media companies such as Facebook and Youtube have been actively working to block some images from the video from appearing on their networks. We should revisit this issue of visual representation and politics at a later date, along with other relevant discussions that we are having this week.

    We wish peace and healing to Foley’s family and friends, and the families of the many other colleagues who have died in recent months, and to those still missing.

    Related: Revisit our post about what happens when a kidnapped journalist is a freelancer. As war reporting increasingly becomes the realm of freelancers, it’s worth noting how much greater the risk and liability is for reporters not connected to a major news organization.