December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Syria

OPC Presidents Deplore the Savage Murder of James Foley

At the OPC’s annual dinner honoring the best in international journalism in April 2013, we gave over the podium for our candle lighting ceremony to John and Diane Foley, whose son, James, a reporter, photographer and video journalist, had disappeared in northern Syria the previous November.

Diane gave a moving statement urging the powerful in the media and diplomacy to work for her son’s release. We were all encouraged at the time by reports that he was alive in captivity, along with a group of other media kidnap victims.

Now we learn that those reports were true, and we learn that in the most tragic way, as a video surfaces purporting to show his murder at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group. The OPC deplores this savagery both on behalf of Jim’s family and the international journalism community.

By all accounts, Jim was a neutral observer of the chaotic events in Syria, with sympathy for the many innocents who have died in the fighting. What we lose with his death – and with the deliberate killing of many other journalists, including Daniel Pearl – is not just a good man who saw his job as informing the world about a news event, but the notion that journalists should be permitted to cover war and politics as neutral observers.

The Islamic State, aka ISIS or ISIL, is right to worry that reporters will disclose to the world its crimes against humanity disguised in religious garb. That is our job. But around the world, from Beijing to Moscow to Kiev to Tel Aviv to Washington, journalists are under attack, whether on battlefields or in the courts, for doing their jobs too well.

We offer our condolences to Diane and the rest of Jim’s family, we mourn his death, and we celebrate the life he chose to lead, telling truths from the front lines of a brutal conflict.

Michael Serrill
President
Overseas Press Club of America

Marcus Mabry
Incoming President