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Islamic State intimidates war correspondents

The future seems bleak for journalists hoping to cover news in war-stricken Middle Eastern areas.

Illustration of journalist James Foley who was murdered by an Islamic State militant.

Illustration of journalist James Foley who was murdered by an Islamic State militant.



Illustration of journalist James Foley who was murdered by an Islamic State militant.

Chrystina Schwartz, Staff Writer

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Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable decline in international news coverage in  war-filled countries like Iraq and Syria.

The rise of the Islamic State and their brutal executions of journalists have struck fear in reporters hoping to cover Aghani, Syrian and Iraqi affairs. The terrorist group’s form of merciless murder is a threat to everyone who is not apart of their extremist jihad — this, of course, includes journalists.

The Islamic State only heightens the dangers these journalists already face while reporting. Journalists are regularly confronted with the risk of being killed in gunfire, explosions or  arrested in Middle Eastern countries with little to no freedom of the press, such as Egypt.

The decline of war correspondents is due to the rise of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and their indiscriminate killings. These killings have created an abundance of new challenges for news agencies attempting to send journalists into areas where the Islamic State’s presence is heavy.

Although a job as a war correspondent may turn out to be fatal, I believe with better funding from news agencies toward protecting these reporters, this job can become far less hazardous.

According to information found on the Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Employment of reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts is projected to decline 9 percent from 2014 to 2024.” I’m convinced this is because of the increasing unpopularity of reporting directly from Islamic State controlled areas.

The Islamic State is a terrorist group unlike Al Qaeda; they’re better funded, tech-savvy and incredibly brutal. Members of the Islamic State use multiple cameras and editing techniques to enhance videos depicting their barbaric murders of reporters.

Major war coverage dropped steeply after the death of journalist James Foley in 2015, a moment that shocked many viewers with a graphic video of Foley being beheaded.

The video of execution was published online for the world to see.  

The decline in news coverage from areas like Syria and Iraq is proof that the Islamic State’s methods of intimidation are working to keep western journalists out.

Most media outlets, such as CNN, use b-roll footage of war-riddled areas submitted by someone on-site. Then a reporter, who is not on site, narrates over the video based on the information they have acquired —  usually from allied militaristic forces.

However there is little live-reporting being done in these areas by reporters hired by major news agencies. The world is entitled to the truth, therefore making this lack of coverage a disappointment.

According to Committee to Protect Journalists, 36 journalists have been killed this year alone – more than half whom were war correspondents.

Of those,18 were killed in combat crossfire and 14 have been murdered while doing their job worldwide, reported by Committee to Protect Journalists. The Islamic State has officially claimed responsibility for five of these murders. This accounts for four out of the five journalist deaths in Syria and one in Turkey.

Although it’s no secret that being a war correspondent is a dangerous job, the threat of the Islamic State has increased fears to a new level.

By neglecting to report news in these areas, news agencies fail to provide the public with necessary information. I have no doubt people will fill what they don’t know about these violence-stricken areas area with speculation.  

War correspondents are a vital part of democracy, therefore news agencies need to invest in observing and reporting in lands afflicted by terrorism like Iraq, and finding a way to keep these reporters safe.

Right now, the important and risky task of reporting in a war zone is commonly outsourced to freelance journalists in the area, who are often underpaid and inexperienced.

I can see how outsourcing reporters from the area is a seems like good idea for news outlets.

However, there’s an issue of morality — sending someone into a dangerous place to report news for very little pay is something that should be extensively thought through before doing.


The reality is, news companies need to reinvest in coverage of the war effort, but to do so means sending your own reporters out in the field to report. It also means paying them a better wage for potentially risking their lives every moment they are out there.

We cannot pay war correspondents small wages and expect Pulitzer Prize winning work – it’s simply unfathomable. One wouldn’t expect a neurosurgeon to work just above minimum wage or less or expect soldiers to be on a non-paid volunteer basis, so why would we expect that from war correspondents?

When reporters, particularly war correspondents, provide solid, informative journalism, I consider it a kind of public service. They’re informing the world while putting their lives on the line to get this truth to the masses.

It’s infuriating to realize that there has been a decline in war correspondents because of radical extremists killing them mercilessly while they’re simply trying to report.  

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