[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] released separate statements Wednesday condemning the execution of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder], formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as a war crime. Foley was a freelance journalist conducting war correspondence on the situation in Syria when he was abducted by IS [CNN report] in November 2012. IS released a video on Tuesday purportedly depicting Foley’s beheading [Newsweek report] by a masked IS agent, declared to be retaliation for a US airstrike against IS on August 9. The US National Security Council [official website] has reached the preliminary conclusion that the video depicting the execution is authentic [DW report], pending the results of a longer verification process. HRW has called on all sides of the conflict to immediately release all journalists [press release], human rights activists, humanitarians and medical professionals for their legitimate work in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2139. Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Al’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said [press release] “It is imperative that all warring countries and others with interests in the region use all diplomatic means possible to ensure that no more journalists—or others carrying out their legitimate work in the area—are killed for doing their job.” Both groups have described Foley’s execution as a war crime.
Journalism is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with more than 1,000 journalists killed since 1992 and more than 200 journalists imprisoned [CPJ factsheets]. The Committee to Protect Journalists describes Syria as the most dangerous country for journalists [CPJ factsheet], with at least 70 journalists killed while covering the conflict there. In July AI reported mounting evidence of abductions and violence against activists, protesters and journalists [JURIST report] in eastern Ukraine. Also this month a Myanmar court sentenced four journalists and the chief executive of the Unity Journal [JURIST report] to 10-year prison sentences and hard labor for publishing a story alleging the Myanmar military had seized land in Magwe for the purpose of producing chemical weapons. In June an Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to prison [JURIST report] for reporting false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood; three other journalists were sentenced in absentia. In May HRW called on Myanmar to pass more protective media laws [JURIST report] and end arbitrary arrests of journalists.