NEW YORK (September 8, 2015) – Abduction, torture, and beheadings. Despite the risks, three freelance journalists became a voice for the voiceless in the war-torn Middle East. However, their stories were cut short in more ways than one.
James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Austin Tice were abducted while reporting in Syria. ISIS beheaded Foley and Sotloff in 2014. Austin Tice remains missing.
"These three men represent the highest values of journalism: courage, sacrifice and a firm commitment to the truth," said Randy Dotinga, president of ASJA. "Their bravery and dedication are especially inspiring to us as fellow independent writers."
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) awarded the men with its prestigious Conscience in Media Award, which has been presented only 11 times since 1975. The awards were presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on August 28.
"The Conscience in Media award recognizes journalists who knowingly have endured great personal costs while pursuing the highest tenets of their profession," said Sally Wendkos Olds, interim chair of ASJA's First Amendment Committee.
Foley reported from Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse, and other news outlets. He expressed his commitment to his work by saying, "I believe front line journalism is important – [without it] we can't tell the world how bad it might be."
"Throughout his life, James Foley was driven by deep compassion for people without a voice," Olds said. "As a conflict journalist he knowingly went into dangerous war-torn areas time and time again."
Foley was kidnapped by while covering the Syrian civil war in 2012. For almost two years, he was continually beaten and tortured for being an American, and in August 2014 he was murdered by ISIS.
"Steven Sotloff knew the risks of being a reporter in war torn areas of the Middle East, yet he remained undeterred," said Larry Atkins of ASJA's First Amendment Committee.
"Steven was committed to telling the stories of those who are denied freedom of speech. He was dedicated to working in the most dangerous areas of the world," said Jill Weiss, cousin of Sotloff.
Sotloff covered the Middle East extensively and wrote for many publications, including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs, and the Christian Science Monitor. He was also kidnapped while reporting from Syria and was murdered by ISIS in September 2014, less than a month after Foley.
In May 2012, Austin Tice, a former Marine captain from Houston, interrupted his studies at Georgetown University Law Center to write about the rebels opposed to the Syrian government. He filed articles for numerous publications including the Washington Post and the McClatchy News Service. Tice disappeared later that year.
"Austin Tice is deeply deserving of ASJA's Conscience in Media award, not only because of the excellent reporting he provided from the world's most dangerous conflict zone, but also because of his willingness to sacrifice personal safety in order to chronicle the plight of a nation riven by civil war," said Cynthia Greenwood of ASJA's First Amendment Committee.
It is believed that Tice is being held captive in Syria and that he is alive and well, though his whereabouts remain unknown.
Contributions to honor the recipients have been made to the James Foley Scholarship at Marquette University, the Steven Sotloff Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders.
PAST RECIPIENTS OF THE CONSCIENCE IN MEDIA AWARD
1994: Anna Elisabeth Rosmus, real-life heroine of the film The Nasty Girl
1992: Richard Behar, author, "Scientology: The Cult of Greed" (Time , May 6, 1991)
1992: Paulette Cooper, author, The Scandal of Scientology
1986: Jonathan Kozol, author, Rachel and Her Children
1981: Jacopo Timerman
1981: Erwin Knoll, editor, The Progressive
1978: Donald Woods, South African expatriate journalist
1977: Investigative Reporters and Editors
1977: Don Bolles
1976: I.F. Stone
1975: Jerald F. terHorst
For more information about ASJA, visit www.asja.org
Founded in 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is the nation's professional organization of independent nonfiction writers. Our membership consists of nearly 1,300 outstanding freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and many other forms of nonfiction writing, each of whom has met ASJA's exacting standards of professional achievement.