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The IFJ and its US affiliates mourn the killing of US photographer in Yemen

December 10, 2014

The International Federation of Journalists joins its member unions in the USA, the Newspaper Guild (TNG), the National Writers' Unions (NWU) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), in mourning the death of photographer Luke Somers after he was shot dead by his kidnappers during a failed attempt by US special forces to release him.

“The IFJ and its affiliates worldwide condemn this latest barbaric outrage and send their condolances to Luke’s family. Like many other photojournalists, he decided to live amongst the men and women whose lives and suffering he wanted to portray. Luke was fully engaged in his journalist’s duty to tell people’s tragedies and throw light on their day-to-day lives. Sadly he paid with his life his attachment to Yemen and its people” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

Luke was snatched over a year ago outside a supermarket in the capital Sanaa by a group identified as the al-Qaida branch in Yemen. He was reportedly moved from village to village, but recently appeared in a video released by his captors pleading for help.

According to news reports, a US special unit landed in the location in southern Shabwa where he was held to attempt to release him. He was shot by his captors during the operation which came after a long media blackout of the details about his captivity.

The killing of Luke Somers follows the execution of two other journalists in Syria, James Foley and Steven Sotloff who were all killed by the Isis group last August and September respectively. An attempt to rescue Foley also failed.

“As with Foley and Sotloff, Luke Somers' life and death underscore the growing role of freelancers in covering a war, which tragically appears to be growing, with no end in sight, and has already claimed millions of victims and cost trillions of dollars." said Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers’ Union.

"The Newsguild-CWA is deeply saddened by the death of Luke Sommers in the effort to rescue him and another hostage. Luke was only guilty of committing journalism and was used as a pawn like so many others who have lost their lives. We make a plea to all parties in war zones to protect civilians from needless and wrongful death." added the president of Newsguild-CWA Bernie Lunzer.

The IFJ and its affiliates in the USA expressed concerned about the tactics of the US government in dealing with such kidnappings and called for the review announced by president Obama following the failure of the latest operation to learn the lessons from what had happened and re-evaluate every aspect of the government’s approach to free hostages in similar situations.

“These latest killings have set a new challenge for us in that journalists have now become pawns in wider geopolitical fights.” added Boumelha.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Phone: + 32 2 235 22 17

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