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How the James Foley and Steven Sotloff murders forced a change in the industry

A photograph of James Foley is seen during a memorial service in Irbil, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on 24 August 2014
A photograph of James Foley is seen during a memorial service in Irbil, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on 24 August 2014

AP Photo/ Marko Drobnjakovic

The following is a CPJ blog post by Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director, published on 17 August 2015.

Journalists who regularly cover violence are considered a hard-boiled bunch. But a year ago this month, even the toughest were crying. There was no emotional body armor to deflect the horror of the beheading videos of freelancers James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and other Westerners held hostage in Syria by the self-styled Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or IS.

The slayings confirmed a long-simmering fear among foreign reporters that journalists, particularly in the upended political and security structures of the Middle East, were no longer just witnesses to a story. They were the story. Capturing a Westerner, especially an American, brought insurgent Islamist groups a political and propaganda advantage that far outweighed using the foreign press to spread their message as in the pre-YouTube and Twitter era. Islamic State ransomed off some European captives, but hostages from the United States and Britain, whose governments publicly refuse to pay kidnappers, were ruthlessly exploited and murdered for shock value.

Read the full story on CPJ's site.

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