New York, NY, September 5, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mourns the loss of Steven Sotloff, an enterprising journalist whose life was cut short after he was kidnapped, held captive and viciously murdered by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Many new details of Mr. Sotloff’s life and career have emerged since his murder earlier this week and in today’s eulogies during his memorial service in Miami, Florida. These have filled in the portrait of an individual driven by a deep commitment to journalistic integrity, a natural curiosity, and a willingness to take serious risks to bring important stories back from the frontlines of war-torn regions of the Middle East.
His beheading came on the heels of the August 19 murder of American photojournalist James Foley, similarly beheaded by ISIS, which posted videos of both killings on the Internet. Mr. Foley, a freelance reporter who had been covering Syria’s civil war for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse, was likewise committed to trying to expose to the world the suffering of the people in Syria.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
Steven Sotloff was a young man who had devoted his life to reporting from some of the world’s most dangerous and complicated regions. Like his tragically murdered colleague, James Foley, he was he driven by a natural curiosity and a willingness to take extraordinary risks to report from deep within the most dangerous and volatile areas in the Middle East.
Mr. Sotloff had studied the Middle East at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, and was a critical thinker about the myriad issues facing the region. He traveled and reported extensively, learning Arabic along the way, while filing reports from Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Libya Syria and Turkey. At 31, he had his whole life ahead of him, and one is left to wonder what he might have accomplished had he the opportunity to continue to pursue his journalism career.
From all that we’ve heard from his former colleagues and parents, we know that Mr. Sotloff thought broadly about the Middle East and was deeply informed about and engaged in the local culture. He wrote particularly intelligent and cogent reports on the situation in Libya after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime. As one colleague noted, he held an abiding love and respect for the Islamic world and had traveled to the Middle East to document the suffering of Muslims in war-torn countries and to document the seismic changes taking place in the region.
While he never made much of his Jewishness, or the fact that he held both American and Israeli citizenship, he reportedly made efforts to observe his faith privately during his reporting trips deep into the Muslim world and secretly fasted on Yom Kippur.
His murder, and the killing of James Foley, serve as a stark reminder of the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and as a symbol of the startling disconnect between the goals of the terrorist group ISIS and of those who wish to see the values of democracy and pluralism blossom and grow in Syria, Iraq and beyond. No words can sufficiently condemn the barbarous act that took their lives. While many journalists are killed every year covering war zones, the murders of Sotloff and Foley stand out as both a terrible tragedy and as particularly despicable acts of hate. They should serve as a clarion call to the U.S. and other governments as to the very real threat posed by the Islamic extremists who are gaining a foothold in the region.