Carol Hills: I'm Carol Hills in for Marco Werman and this is The World. For the past two years, we heard little about the Americans, many of them journalists, being held hostage by militants in Syria. Their captors demanded a media blackout and fearful families obeyed. But in the past week, after the execution of freelance reporter James Foley, it seems we're hearing about the remaining hostages everyday. Today, the mother of journalist of Steven Sotloff, Shirley, broke her silence. She released a video in which she appeals directly to the leader of the militant group that's holding her son. The group that calls itself the Islamic State.
Shirley Sotloff: I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected people of the Book. I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children's children. I plead with you to grant me this.
Hills: Janine di Giovanni is Middle East editor for Newsweek and Janine, you know Steven Sotloff and as we just heard, his mother has now appealed directly to his captors to release him unharmed. What are your thoughts when you hear that?
Janine di Giovanni: I think my first thoughts are that I just hope he is still alive. When I last saw him, it's just so hard to believe that this very energetic, bright, funny, smart, philosophical journalist could be in the hands of these guys who are so absolutely brutal. This has been a terrible week since the news of Jim Foley and Steve and our other colleagues because it's really changed the whole rules of the game.
Hills: What makes Syria so different as a conflict zone from the other places you've worked? And you've worked in many places.
Di Giovanni: The issue is that either you are fortunate enough to get a visa and if you get a visa, you can go to the government side, which isn't always fun because it has its own conditions that you have to work under and one of those is extreme paranoia and - also concern. But you're going to be a lot safer than you would be operating in northern Syria, where at one point you had to deal with Nusra, now you would have to deal with ISIS or basically try to avoid ISIS. Now all of us knew at one point that the checkpoints were changing hands very rapidly and ISIS was taking over various areas. But now I don't think anyone knows where they are and there was a time when you could work alongside militias, you could operate - even with the so-called "Bad guys." You can't do that now.
Hills: This is personal for you, you knew Jim Foley, you know Steven Sotloff, you're the Middle East editor for Newsweek. Would you go into Syria right now?
Di Giovanni: With certain conditions, I would. My colleagues and I have this burning question, which is "How do we report this war? How do we continue to be the eyes and ears of this conflict?" We need on the ground reporting but it's increasingly difficult - I should say impossible.
Hills: Have you ever known a militant group besides ISIS that has actually targeted journalists in the way that we're seeing?
Di Giovanni: I have never known a militant group that went after journalists in the way that ISIS does. There's always a suspicion when it comes to journalists - always. And the Chechens did kidnap aid workers, journalists, but that was more for money. It wasn't for the principle of using an American journalist to prove a point. It wasn't the same kind of issue. There was Daniel Pearl but that, again, I would argue there was a difference between what happened there and what happened here to Jim and to - well, we hope Steve is still alive. I'm not sure what the solution is but I do know that the longer that France and Italy and Spain keep paying for hostages and the more that America and Britain refuse to, it sets this terrible imbalance in this very murky world of hostage negotiation. It means that all of us are walking cash machines now basically because if terrorists believe that certain governments are going to pay, it does set this incredibly dangerous precedent.
Hills: Janine di Giovanni is a longtime war correspondent. She's now the Middle East editor for Newsweek. Thanks a lot Janine.
Di Giovanni: Thank you.