Along the way, and what many including myself take for granted, is the work done by the reporters and journalists, some free-lance and some with big organizations, to bring all that information to my very fingertips -- at the cost of no personal discomfort to me. Many of them, on the other hand, put their lives at risk every day to obtain just another tiny piece of the puzzle. Those journalists in such places as the Gaza Strip, Donetsk, Baghdad, (insert name of more conflict zones here) all have one thing in common: the desire to inform the world of what they see transpiring. They walk around armed with only a camera and their mobile phone, and often travel to meet some of the most dangerous people on this planet, for the sole purpose of keeping you and me in the know. I cannot name many people willing to do that.
One such man who was willing was James Foley, a 40 year old American photojournalist. Mr. Foley, a freelance reporter, had been on tours with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but wanted to do even more. In 2011, he went to Libya because he want to get the facts straight about the war transpiring between rebel militias and the government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. There, he was captured by forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi and held for six weeks along with other journalists.
Even so, Mr. Foley was not deterred. The Libyan conflict ended in 2011, but the Syrian civil war was just starting up -- and that’s where Mr. Foley decided to go. The easy way would have been to quit reporting from conflict zones. It’s much safer that way, but Mr. Foley was having none of that. He wanted to bring people the facts, and thus went to Syria, the most dangerous country in the world for reporters. There, he wrote a number of articles detailing his insight following interviews with Syrians. He put out a number of videos and even helped raise money for an ambulance in Aleppo, one of the hardest hit cities in the country.
On November 22, 2012, Mr. Foley was captured again, taken by unknown gunmen as he left an Internet cafe in Syria. He was held for well over 600 days until August 19th, 2014, when the Islamic State, a ruthless Islamic extremist organization that operates out of Iraq and Syria, aired a video of his execution.
When I heard the news, I was filled with a mix of anger and immense sadness. It truly struck me at that point just how little I really pay attention to those whose detailed analysis I interpret for publications and blog posts. Certainly I wish safety on all of them, but it is so easy to read their work and think nothing more of it. To think not of the ones who could easily have passed just trying to write the article I scrolled through quickly to see what was happening. For those of us who do that, we do some of the bravest people on this planet a giant disservice. Mr. Foley is not the first journalist to be killed in a war zone, nor will he be the last -- and this is a fact that all conflict reporters know very well. Mr. Foley himself knew it too, for one of his colleagues was shot right in front of him and left for dead by Colonel Qaddafi’s men in Libya. Yet they continue on anyway. It is a testament to their strength and their dedication that they do so.
Us, the readers, the absorbers of knowledge, do not do enough to show our appreciation for reporters in conflict zones. After all, most of the time all we see is a name at the top or bottom of an article or video. I challenge you, you who may read this blog post, to change that. As I said, the Internet has made connecting with people easier than ever before. Take advantage of that and give back a little. Those who report in conflict zones give up a comfortable life to live in some of the worst places in the planet. The least we can do is take a moment to go on social media and other connectivity mediums to express our gratitude.
These men and women will always be a paragon of courage, and James Foley is a shining example.
We here at The Line of Steel would like to send out our deepest condolences to the family of James Foley. He was truly an inspiration to all of us.