Every day there are journalists all over the world that are putting their lives at risk to bring the news to readers and viewers. The recent beheading of American photojournalist James Foley by ISIS in Syria was a travesty to the industry. The news of Foley’s death also showed the world that America journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing on Aug. 4, 2013 after crossing the border from Turkey into Syria, is in the hands of the Islamic State militants (ISIS).
These two journalists being held in Syria are only a handful of media that have been kidnapped or arrested throughout the world. While Foley and Sotloff are the two highest profile journalists to make the news recently, earlier in August, Moscow started investigating the alleged kidnapping of photojournalist Andrei Stenin who was last seen in eastern Ukraine. Stenin was on assignment for the Rossiya Segodnya news agency and, according to officials, had not been heard from since August 5.
Stenin, who is based in Moscow, has covered conflicts worldwide, including in Syria and Libya. The photographer had done extensive work in eastern Ukraine, covering the conflict between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian insurgents that has left over 1,300 dead. According the officials in Kiev, the belief is that Stenin was probably arrested for helping terrorists. Early in the year in the Ukraine, American journalist Simon Ostrovsky, along with at least six other members of the media, were detained in April by pro-Russian separatists.
Ostrovsky, along with Ukrainian media Serhiy Lefter, Irma Krat, Yevhen Hapych and colleagues from France and Belarus were taken five months ago and some faced torture according to Vyacheslav Ponomarev. Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, Ukraine stated that Ostrovsky was being held by the pro-Russian’s because they need prisoners. Ponomarev said “They take ours, drive them to Kiev, torture them. Well, we’ve done the same.”
At the time, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the U.S. was working to resolve the situation in the Ukraine. It is not clear what the U.S. did, but Ostrovsky, who was taken on April 21, was released from captivity four days later. Sotloff was not nearly as lucky as Ostrovsky. Sotloff was kidnapped on Aug. 4, 2013 and remains in captivity, with his life in the hands of President Barak Obama, according to threats and demands from ISIS. Foley had remained in ISIS captivity since November 2012 until he was executed.
Journalists do not have to be in war zones outside of the United States to risk detention or injury every day. A few days ago, photographer Scott Olson of Getty Images was arrested in Ferguson, Missouri while covering the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. Olson was arrested for not moving out of the way fast enough and because the media were supposed to be in “designated” areas. Olson, who was on assignment for Getty was reportedly trying to do his job, documenting the tumultuous happenings in the area between the people of Ferguson and the authorities.
In the ten days since the shooting death of Brown in Ferguson, 11 journalists, including Olson, had been arrested. The first arrests in Ferguson started when The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were arrested inside a McDonald’s restaurant. Both were released without charges being filed approximately 45 minutes later. Three other journalists were also detained for a brief period on Sunday night.
Journalists are risking their lives every day, whether it is in war-torn countries or just around the corner of a major U.S. city. The struggles they can face to bring the news to the world may be just an annoyance to deadly consequences. While not every journalist or newspaper may be viewed as one that follows ethics, there are journalists out there that do want to bring the truth to the world and know the risks that they put themselves into every day.
By Carl Auer