Quill September/October 2014 : Page 17

THE MURDERS OF FREELANCE JOURNALISTS JAMES FOLEY AND STEVEN SOTLOFF HAVE THE JOURNALISM WORLD QUESTIONING WHETHER SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES OF OUR TIME ARE WORTH RISKING REPORTERS’ LIVES. BY GENEVIEVE BELMAKER here was no question that Steven Sotloff knew what he was doing. The 31-year-old journalist from Florida had worked for years in the Middle East. He spoke Arabic. He knew how to navigate the myriad dangers of enemy combatants, hostile government forces and the painful effects of war on civilians. The stories he told of what he’d wit-nessed were often eloquent and heart-breaking. “At camps such as Atmeh, located less than 1,000 feet from the border with Turkey, they are struggling to survive without heat, electricity, or adequate sanitation,” Sotloff wrote in a January 2013 article for Foreign Policy maga-zine about a Syrian refugee camp. “The meager rations provided by a smatter-ing of small NGOs leave them scroung-ing in order to keep their hunger at bay.” The retelling of a haunting image of suffering marked the beginning of his last year as a reporter. In August 2013, Sotloff and his trusted fixer, Yosef Abo-baker, were abducted by 15 masked ISIS gunmen. Abobaker, who spoke for the first time with CNN two weeks after Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS militants, described the journalist as a “nice man” with a “good heart.” Abobaker said he tried to send an apology to Sotloff’s family, who have re-mained largely silent, on Facebook. “I am so sorry,” Abobakar recounted to CNN of his message to the bereaved T STEVEN SOTLOFF JAMES FOLEY parents. “I did my best to save him. ... my feeling is so sorry, like I lost my brother.” In many ways, Sotloff’s career — largely kicked off by his reporting on the Arab Spring — was just getting start-ed. In addition to his work for Foreign Policy, he had also been published in Time magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Israel’s Media Line and other outlets. The U.S.-born reporter also had joint American-Israeli citizenship and was respected by both the Arab and Is-raeli media. In Israel, news of Sotloff’s death was visceral. “It was horrifying, and the reaction was very public,” said Aryeh Green, director of Jerusalem’s MediaCentral, a hub in the city’s center that offers a wide variety of free assistance — com-puters and work space, and informa-tional sessions and site tours, largely to foreign journalists. “There was a lot of discussion in the press about the beheading, about the danger to journalists, and not so much focused on the issue of freelancers but focused on the environment surround-OPPOSITE: James Foley among ancient ruins in the Idlib, Syria, countryside during sunset, June 7, 2012. Photo by Nicole Tung. ABOVE: Steven Sotloff photo courtesy of Reuters. James Foley by Nicole Tung. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 Q XLOO 17

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