When Mosul fell to Islamic State on June, 10, 2014, it sparked one of the biggest attacks on press freedom in recent times. Newspapers were shuttered, TV channels were ransacked, radio stations disappeared from the airwaves, and dozens of journalists vanished. Within days, the militants had a monopoly on information output.
Coverage of protests and riots. Revelations of official corruption and graft. Major natural disasters. Investigations into deplorable living conditions. These are some of the important issues journalists cover in their role as the Fourth Estate.
For the past two years, activists and journalists seeking refuge from Islamic State repression in Raqqa would take sanctuary across the border in southern Turkey, setting up safe houses and offices, and darting back to Syria regularly with camera equipment and other vital supplies. But that sanctuary is now under threat.
Thursday marks one year since two gunmen burst into the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Over the following year, CPJ documented the deaths of 28 journalists who were killed for their work by Islamic militant groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. This StoryMap charts the deadly attacks that took place in eight countries in 2015.
Ahmed Abu al-Hamza, "Software" as he was known by his friends, stood behind the camera on November 6 as a gunman explained how rebel forces took Tel Sukayk, a strategic hilltop north of Hama, from government forces. Suddenly the camera's sound recorder picked up the faint thud of a mortar shell firing in the distance. A few seconds of confusion then turned to horror as the shell exploded right in front of the camera, killing Abu al-Hamza and the rebel fighter and injuring several others.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined 16 other human rights and press freedom organisations calling on Syrian authorities to drop charges against Mazen Darwish, the founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, who was released from prison on August 10.
In April 2012, Nicole Schilit, research associate in CPJ's Journalist Assistance program, interviewed James Foley about his experience working as a freelance journalist in conflict zones. The interview took place in New York between reporting trips to Libya and Syria. Foley was murdered in Syria in August 2014.
Journalists who regularly cover violence are considered a hard-boiled bunch. But a year ago this month, even the toughest were crying. There was no emotional body armor to deflect the horror of the beheading videos of freelancers James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and other Westerners held hostage in Syria by the self-styled Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or IS.
The militant group Islamic State may be trying to push Syria back into the dark ages, but it is fighting a very modern war. From slick propaganda videos to online surveillance and wide restrictions on Internet use, the Islamic State is trying to control media output and stamp down on dissent.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.