Interview

Ending impunity: More than 1,400 journalists murdered since 1992

American journalist James Foley was the first US hostage to be executed by the Islamic State group.
American journalist James Foley was the first US hostage to be executed by the Islamic State group. © Capture France 24

Journalists have long been targets of authoritarian governments and armed groups, but attacks have been on the rise in recent years. To mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, FRANCE 24 looked at why reporting can be so dangerous and what is done to protect those out in the field. 

Advertising

So far in 2021, 35 journalists have been killed and 348 are currently imprisoned globally, according to Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières or RSF). 

Since 1992 more than 1,400 journalists have been murdered, according to RSF. And in eight out of 10 cases the killers go free.

Seven years ago, Jim Foley became the first American journalist to be executed by the Islamic State group. His beheading, filmed and uploaded online, shocked the world.

For Foley’s mother, Jim sacrificed his life for the values he cherished. 

"Jim died for what he thought was the truth, for what he felt was important. He felt it was a job that needed to be done. He was single, he felt he could do it," she told FRANCE 24. "He loved it. He loved hearing what was going on and then writing the story, capturing the images to bring back to the world.” 

Three weeks after Jim’s death, Diane Foley created a foundation, calling on the US government to do more to free hostages, whether reporters or not.

Today, at least 67 Americans are being held against their will.

"It’s becoming ever more dangerous to be a journalist, whether in this country or around the world. And I think that is mostly because there’s so much misinformation – disinformation – now, that it’s harder for the truth to come out," Foley observed.

"Unless we hold people accountable – those who attack, kill, torture journalists – there’s no protection for them.”

Safety protocols

After 20 years of reporting, often in hostile environments, Laila Al-Arian is now the one sending teams into harm's way. As the executive producer of "Fault Lines" on Al-Jazeera, Al-Arian has made it a priority to protect her reporters and tries to follow strict safety protocols.

"We try to find out as much as possible about the place we’re going rather than just parachuting in and being oblivious. So we do very thorough research, always work with local people on the ground who can help us get the lay of the land. I try my hardest not to send people who have zero experience of hostile environments, especially if the whole crew is inexperienced – you try to balance that out.”

Click on the video player above to watch the full report.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning