Retired Oklahoma journalist says war zones more risky than ever for media personnel

Darrell Barton, a Vietnam veteran who worked at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City before beginning a freelance career that took him from Panama in the 1980s to Afghanistan and Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001.
by William Crum Modified: August 24, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: August 24, 2014

A photojournalist who worked in trouble spots from Central America to the Middle East said Friday the beheading of James Foley illustrates how the situation on the ground has changed for reporters in war zones.

Foley, 40, was kidnapped Nov. 22, 2012, while reporting in northern Syria for GlobalPost.com.

His captors had demanded a ransom of $132 million for his release, GlobalPost said. Islamic militants posted a video last week of his execution.

“I can’t even pretend to begin to understand it at all,” said Darrell Barton, a Vietnam veteran who worked at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City before beginning a freelance career that took him from Panama in the 1980s to Afghanistan and Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001.

Assignments included places such as Beirut, Lebanon, where Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson was abducted on March 16, 1985. Anderson was the longest-held hostage in Lebanon and the last American to be released when he was set free in December 1991.

Reporters taken hostage in those days might spend years “chained to radiators” but they lived, Barton said.

“Terry Anderson lived through it because murder was not part of the equation at that time,” Barton said. “That was not the bargaining chip at that time.”

“Now these people apparently believe that they can actually bargain with the United States by, you know, ‘We’ll kill your journalists if you don’t leave us alone.’ It apparently has not occurred to them that that’s not going to be the case,” he said.

A militant said in the video that Foley’s killing was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, in portions of Iraq and Syria.

Barton said he had read the stories of Foley’s captivity and death and tried to understand “how he got himself into this situation because I know this was nothing new for him.”

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by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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