We grieve the loss of James Foley and send our condolences to his friends, colleagues and family. At 40 years old, James Foley was still in the early stages of what would surely be a long and successful career as a journalist, yet already he had accomplished far more than most journalists do in a lifetime. His work had taken him into the heart of conflicts around the world. He was no stranger to hostile and dangerous environments.
In fact, his capture in 2012 wasn't even his first. He had already spent 44 days in a Libyan jail in 2011 while covering the civil war there. During his capture he witnessed another journalist, South African Anton Hammerl, killed in the firefight. Despite the risks, Foley still traveled to Syria in 2012 to cover the conflict there. His commitment to bearing witness and reporting what he saw to the world was admirable.
Every journalist should look to his example and the example of others who risk their very lives to bring the world the truth. It is worth noting that James Foley was, like many of the journalists currently covering the conflict in Syria, a freelance journalist. He was not a staffer with the backup of a large well-funded media company. And other freelancers covering Syria have faced similar dangers since most of the media pulled their staffers out in 2012. Austin Tice went missing in August of 2012 after sneaking into Syria with the intention of finding work as a freelance reporter to cover the conflict. He tweeted from Syria "If someone wanted to hire me that'd be great. Student loans don't pay themselves."
At least 20 journalists have gone missing in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. At least 39 journalists are missing worldwide. This is a moment for us to celebrate the life and work of James Foley, but also a moment to reflect on the risks that brave and admirable men and women just like him take around the world for very little money and often very little recognition. Without their bravery in the face of war, despotism and chaos, history would truly be written by the victors. May those who have not been found come home safely, and may those yet to go into the scene of the battle be protected, cared for, and celebrated.