BU’s Stephen Jukes talks about James Foley execution on BBC Radio Solent

When asked by BBC Radio Solent presenter Louisa Hannan about his thoughts upon hearing of the apparent execution of James Foley, BU’s Stephen Jukes replied: “Shocking, horrific, terrible… but sadly no longer a surprise.”

James Foley was a freelance journalist who became a captive of the IS organisation in Iraq. A video of his execution was uploaded to YouTube on 19 August 2014, which made international headlines.

A former foreign correspondent and media executive with Reuters, Jukes was interviewed about the execution and the dangers facing journalists in war zones.

Juke, who is now Dean of BU’s Media School, reflected on the change in journalism since 9/11, stating that journalism was safer prior to the attacks.

He said: “There was a time, a sort of golden age, when the journalist was neutral; a detached observer and probably almost untouchable. The word ‘press’ was also in a sense a sort of badge of security.”

In the past thirteen years though, journalists have become targets, he added. Journalists working with large organisations receive better protection, with specific training for hostile environments, including how to avoid kidnapping and being shot, as well as emotional support for any trauma they may face.

However, Jukes highlighted the lack of support and protection for freelance and local journalists in war zones. In areas too dangerous for foreign correspondents, news organisations increasingly rely on local journalists. A large number of journalists killed in Syria have been Syrians.

He said: “In a sense you’ve got this hierarchy of the foreign correspondent with all the protection and support, you’ve got the freelancer who may well be a Westerner, who goes in, has limited support, probably with some form of insurance and then you have the locals, who have nothing.”

Jukes believes it’s up to the news organisations and charities to provide support and protection to freelance and local journalists.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict alone, some claim that more than a hundred journalists have been killed. Terror organisations have used the murders of these journalists, recording their killings in order to spread their message.

Jukes provided a defence for the difficult decision of some news outlets in deciding to show the recording of Foley’s murder. He said: “If you don’t show the video the kidnappers will say ‘well, we’ll kill him’. If you do show the video, there’s no more publicity element left for the kidnappers, so they’ll kill him. Effectively, whatever you do, you’ll be wrong.”

However, he also added that he personally did not think that news outlets should give the terror organisations the publicity by showing the video, as it was readily available online. Jukes cited terror organisations’ use of social media as key in their campaign of violence

“What’s happened is those organisations, those terror organisations, whether they be ISIS or Al-Qaeda in a previous guise, they are really using social media. They’re doing what we do every day in getting their message out. They’re using the new tools of social media.”

However, Jukes does not think that the latest show of violence will deter journalists or those hoping to take up the career. He said: “I don’t think journalists or want-to-be-journalists are going to stop doing it. That’s what we do and we need to tell stories and that’s what we want to do.

“We want to hold a light up to truth and uncover what’s going on and get behind the scenes… The problem is it’s becoming increasingly dangerous.

Listen to the interview in full (starts 35 minutes into the programme, which is available for 30 days)

By Harriet Gilbraith

Harriet is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. She joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from the college with work experience for four weeks over the summer.