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British journalist John Cantlie held by ISIS in Syria

John Cantlie
John Cantlie


Reporters Without Borders is appalled by today's [18 September 2014] release by Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (also known as Islamic State and ISIS) of a video in which John Cantlie, a British journalist held hostage since November 2012, is forced to deliver a statement defending the armed Jihadi organization.

“This shameful piece of propaganda, coming on the heels of the recent barbaric beheadings, has taken Islamic State's hostage-taking to new level of horror,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“By releasing a video of British journalist John Cantlie speaking under duress, after staging the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, ISIS is committing one war crime after another and is displaying its contempt for all human dignity. Cantlie must be released, like all the other hostages.”

Entitled “Lend me your ears,” the three-minute video shows Cantlie and no one else. Dressed in orange, like the Guantanamo Bay detainees and like the hostages who were previously executed, he sits at a table and addresses the camera.

Identifying himself as a British journalist who worked for leading publications such as the Sunday Times, Sun and Sunday Telegraph, he says:

"In November 2012 I came to Syria where I was subsequently captured by the Islamic State. Now, nearly two years later, many things have changed including the expansion of the Islamic State to include large areas of eastern Syria and Western Iraq.

“Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'He's only doing this because he's a prisoner. He's got a gun to his head and he's being forced to do this,' Right? Well, it's true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as how I've been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State, I have nothing to lose.

"Maybe I will live, maybe I will die. But I want to take this opportunity to convey some facts that you can verify. Facts that if you contemplate might help preserving lives.”

He then indicates that this is just the first of a series of videos designed to show how the western media try to turn pubic opinion against ISIS.

“Over the next few programmes I'm going to show you the truth as the western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State.”

Reporters Without Borders points out that such forced statements, the result of psychological torture, are regarded under international law as inhuman and degrading treatment.

Cantlie was originally taken hostage with a Dutch journalist in northern Syria in July 2012. After being injured in an escape attempt, they were rescued a few weeks later by the Free Syrian Army. His recapture in November 2012 was the subject of a media blackout.

Today's video comes five days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of British humanitarian aid worker David Haines, which was preceded by the videos showing the murders of Foley and Sotloff.

It also comes three days after an international conference in Paris to discuss military intervention in Iraq. Twenty-seven Arab and western countries and three international organizations attended the conference.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Militant group must release kidnapped British journalist

    "We are deeply concerned for the safety of John Cantlie, who has been forced to make this statement to advance the propaganda aims of Islamic State," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "We refuse to further those aims and have only one thing to say: Islamic State militants must free John Cantlie and all other remaining hostages immediately."

  • IFJ joins international condemnation of latest IS video

    “It is clear that this video, in which John Cantlie has been forced to deliver a message from ISIS knowing that his life is on the line, is clearly an attempt to intimidate and strike fear into journalists covering the region and to prevent them from doing their jobs and reporting the truth,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

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