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.

    Photojournalist Camille Lepage Killed in Central African Republic

    Camille Lepage, a 26-year old French photojournalist, has died in Central African Republic. The Guardian reports that French President Hollande has said “all necessary means will be deployed to shine light on the circumstances of this assassination and find the killers of our compatriot.”

    Camille Lepage leaving a fishing village on the Nile River near Terekeka, South Sudan in September 2012. Photo by Matt Lutton.

    I don’t have much to say right now. So read Nicholas Kulish piece on the New York Times’ Lens Blog: “Bearing Witness, Losing Her Life”. He describes how he came to meet Lepage in Juba, South Sudan. I had a very similar experience, and we were both left impressed by this young journalist.

    We at dvafoto have known Camille for a couple of years and have been following her work and career closely. We published an interview with her in March 2013, “Notes from the Field: Camille Lepage in South Sudan”. We talked about her decision to move to South Sudan straight from journalism school in England and her motivation to cover seemingly unknown conflicts and the struggles of trying to get those stories published. I urge you to have a look at this interview to learn more about Lepage and see a gallery of her work.

    Camille was a hardworking and ambitious young journalist already producing quality stories that hadn’t yet found a wide audience. She was working to bring these stories to more people’s attention. Her future was very bright, and we at dvafoto are extremely saddened by this news.

    We will update this story as more information becomes available.

    Putin tightens control of independent media with Russian blogging law

    M. Scott Brauer - Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him.  He was later released.  The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia.  Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.
    M. Scott Brauer – Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him. He was later released. The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia. Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.

    After my participation in the US-Russia Young Media Professionals Exchange in late 2012, I’ve been keeping an eye on news regarding media and journalism in Russia. The latest development is a new law requiring bloggers to register with the state if they have more than 3000 visitors daily. Taking a page from other internet-censoring countries such as China and Iran, Russian bloggers with an audience that size (which is remarkably small…dvafoto frequently hits that number through our various outlets) cannot operate anonymously and must maintain an archive of their previous 6 months of posts on Russian soil. The law is widely seen as a move to stifle dissent.

    Another Russian internet law, which went into effect on Feb. 1, 2014, was immediately used to shut down the blogs of well-known dissidents Alexei Navalny (seen in my image above; blog link) and Garry Kasparov (wiki). And these laws led Pavel Durov, founder of Russian Facebook-clone VKontakte, to leave the country rather than comply with orders to turn over information about political activists in Russia and Ukraine.

    This follows 6 months or so of efforts to shut down or marginalize independent media in Russia. One of the biggest independent voices in Russia media, Telekanal Dozhd (TV Rain), was dropped by almost all cable providers around the country. Moscow City Court revoked the license of independent online news agency Rosbalt. Lenta.ru‘s progressive editor-in-chief was fired, and almost half of the staff lost jobs as new editors friendly to the Kremlin were brought in. The long-time director of prominent liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy was forced out and replaced with a Kremlin supporter. Putin dissolved state news agency RIA Novosti, which had been known for semi-independent reporting. I could go on, but the Committee to Protect Journalists page on Russia is a good resource to learn more.

    On the subject, here’s a great overview of newspaper culture in Russia that includes a timeline of major events in the history of the Russian newspapers.

    And at Wired’s Raw File blog, by the way, you can see my photo essay focusing on state-run media in Russia.