Journalists in Armed Conflict and the Loss of Protective Status

by Travis Normand
December 28, 2016


The following was published at on December 8, 2016 (emphasis added).

Exclusive: TheBlaze’s Jason Buttrill shoots at ISIS members and shares footage from the Mosul front, by Brandon Morse, December 8, 2016 at 10:15 pm

TheBlaze researcher Jason Buttrill is bringing you exclusive footage from the Mosul offensive in Iraq, and as you will see, the action is getting a bit extreme. Currently, Buttrill is on the front line, seeing the fight to take back Iraq street by street. Not only is he having some interesting conversations, and seeing some unbelievable sites, he’s in the thick of the action.

For instance, Buttrill recently took some shots at ISIS as he was out getting reports from the front line.

Click HERE for the rest of the article.

When a reporter, correspondent, researcher, journalist, or other non-combatant takes direct participation in hostilities, he/she loses any protection afforded to them by the LOAC.

If a journalist who is working in a “war” zone takes direct participation in hostilities, they lose any protection that they are afforded as a journalist for at least as so long as they are taking direct participation. Further, not only is such action unbecoming of a journalist, it shows a complete lack of respect for the law and confuses who might be a legitimate object of attack. Such confusion puts other journalists and protected persons at risk.

Richard White covered this story over at, and so I will refrain from going on a long-winded rant about Mr. Buttrill. However, I will say this, as Mr. Buttrill was apparently in the Marines at one point in time I am sure he has been instructed on the LOAC. Therefore, he should know that the U.S. military prides itself on abiding by the LOAC and that it is the non-state groups such as ISIS and al-Queda who are notorious for failing to follow the law. It is disappointing to see someone fall victim to the same mentality as those who fight for these terrorist organizations.

Note: has reported that due to his conduct Mr. Buttrill was pulled from his assignment.  Also, as you can see below, Buttrill has since apologized via for his actions.


I have interacted with many people on twitter who believe Mr. Buttrill has done nothing wrong and that he should not have been taken off  his assignment. Most of these people argue that armed non-state groups like ISIS attack and kill journalists regardless of their obligations under the LOAC and therefore Buttrill is justified in taking shots at them. They further argue that he is not giving up any protections afforded by the LOAC as ISIS doesn’t recognize or adhere to those protections, and thus he is not putting any journalists in harms way (as they already are). While I understand these sentiments, my counter argument would be that Buttrill was not exercising his right to self-defense and killing another human is murder when it is not justified. We cannot complain that ISIS (or anyone else) is killing or harming our journalists if our journalists are out there taking a direct participation in hostilities.

This is a reminder that there are far too many who have a total lack of understanding and respect for the law of war. This includes terrorists, unlawful combatants, insurgents, non-state actors, and unfortunately average citizens.

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