New York, September 2, 2014–The Islamic State militant group released a video Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of American freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, according to news reports. Sotloff, who was abducted in Syria in August 2013, would be the second American journalist murdered by Islamic State. In a video posted online on August 19, the group murdered American freelance journalist James Foley and threatened to do the same to Sotloff in retribution for U.S. military intervention in Iraq.
“Journalists know that covering war is inherently dangerous and that they could get killed in crossfire. But being butchered in front of camera simply for being a reporter is pure barbarism. We condemn in the strongest terms possible the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff. He, like James Foley, went to Syria to tell a story. They were civilians, not representatives of any government. Their murders are war crimes and those who committed them must be brought to justice swiftly,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video showing Sotloff’s killing.
Syria has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for more than two years. At least 70 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there, including some who died over the border in Lebanon and Turkey. More than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria; with frequent abductions, some of which go unpublicized, it is difficult to know exactly how many. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria, the majority of whom are Syrian. Many journalists are still believed to be held by Islamic State.