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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Staff Editorial: Reacting to acts of violence and intimidation

In the final frames of the footage, James Foley begins to frown. Up to the point where most abandon the video, Foley remains stoutly resolute, unflinching as he tells his brother and parents that their actions killed him. It’s not until his executioner steadies himself by grabbing Foley’s shoulder that the veins in the journalist’s neck bulge, his back tenses and his grim resolve puddles into the realization that this isn’t simply another mock execution staged by his captor of over two years. In the next frame, Foley’s head sits upright on his back.

Prior to being held captive for 635 days in Syria, Foley was captured and held for seven weeks in Libya in 2011. It was only after he returned to the United States that Foley disclosed to The Boston Globe that he and other captives had seen soldiers associated with Moammar Gadhafi murder an unarmed photographer who had been traveling with them. Rather than allowing fear of his captors paralyze him, Foley spoke up. He held to his prerogative as a journalist to report the truth, telling the story that could one day kill him, without concern for praise or fear of punishment.

Two more men have died on their knees at the hands of ISIS; a fourth has been threatened with death as well. And yet, there are journalists who wake up with this knowledge and still choose to clock into a job that they could lose their head for.

If you mention a job with honor, risk of a violent death and a foundation in service above self, it’s usually assumed that you’re talking about the military. But Foley, Sotloff, Haines, Henning and the unfilmed multitudes indicate we may have neglected to rally around the unsung journalists who realize it’s more dangerous not to tell the story than it is to tell it.

It’s terrifying that these men are dying, and it’s been a gut-wrenching couple of weeks to receive alerts of journalists who have been decapitated. But they remain in the darkest corners of the earth to tell the stories that demand to be told. They don’t run away for fear of death. It’s something we have to remain cognizant of — true fear lies in not knowing. If these deaths are indicative of anything, it’s that we will always know what’s happening in the world, even when the price for that knowledge is death.

Don’t focus on the evil of ISIS. As chilling as things seem to journalists across the globe, the alternative would truly be frightening. The fact that we still have these anonymous heroes risking their lives is not something to be sad about. It’s something we should be inspired by.

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