On Aug. 20, 2014, James Foley was beheaded by a masked member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on a video that was released worldwide. This past Tuesday, another video was released of the execution of Steven Sotloff, who was similarly beheaded. Both men were American freelance journalists and contributors to major international publications such as TIME magazine who were kidnapped while reporting on the front lines of conflict in Syria.
The videos mirror each other in setting and scene: two American journalists, heads shaved, wearing orange, next to a masked man wielding a knife in all black. Threats were made. America was condemned. The men said their last words, which are speculated to be scripted, blaming President Obama and U.S. airstrikes on Iraq for their deaths, and then they are beheaded before the next target is proclaimed. Many other speculations exist about the videos”” their origin, the masked man or possibly men who did the beheading, the threats spit out in what has been described by CNN analysts as an “international British accent.” However, unlike the deaths of soldiers where their years of service and duty are described before the men are proclaimed heroes, few have mentioned or discussed why these journalists were there to begin with. Not unlike the brave men and women of the military, they were kidnapped while on the front lines, doing their job.
While we understand the political implications of these massacres, crimes committed by an organization deemed too extreme even by al-Qaeda, we at the Trinitonian urge our readers to take a moment to appreciate what these valiant men were in the Middle East to do, to report and investigate the truth of an international conflict.
Our generation””the millennials””has been raised largely in a time of war and misunderstanding. From Desert Storm, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars that have followed, many lives in many countries have been lost, and it is important amidst this conflict to remain informed and knowledgeable of the events that happen in the name of law and country. The executions of Foley and Sotloff were symbolic, not only in terms of threat but largely in terms of messaging: two mediums for freedom were silenced by the blade of a knife.
To the friends and family of Foley and Sotloff, we send our condolences. While many of us may not go on to a career in journalism, let alone one as courageous as these men, we work in reverence knowing that those in the field place their lives on the line every day in search of truth and in the conveyance of justice and appreciate those who have fallen in the endless struggle for integrity in journalism. Now, more than ever, in an age where media and news are eroding at the base of development, these values must be upheld and the Trinitonian will continue to uphold them, looking up to journalists on the frontlines both domestic and abroad.