Former road tester/features writer for the U.K. magazine SuperBike in the late 1990s, John Cantlie, is the latest journalist hostage to appear in an orange jumpsuit, in a video just released by ISIL. After leaving SuperBike in 2001, Cantlie branched out into mainstream print and online publishing, writing for magazines such as FHM and Esquire, where he developed an interest in travel and adventure reporting. Since 2011, Cantlie has reported from Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Syria, for publications including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, BBC News, The Sun, The Guardian, GQ and Top Gear. His photography from Syria was screened at the 2012 Visa Pour L’image festival in France.

Cantlie appears in a video released last Thursday by the Islamic fundamentalist group ISIL, “a slickly produced introduction to what it promised would be a multipart series on the group and the folly of efforts by the United States to fight it,” according to the New York Times.

ISIL is not threatening to behead Cantlie like its latest three victims, but uses him as a spokesperson to address a Western audience “in tones reminiscent of prime-time news,” reports the Times, which also says Cantlie was kidnapped along with slain American journalist James Foley in 2012.

Reached in the U.K., Sonic’s former SuperBike colleague Trevor Franklin says, “In his years as a motorcycle journalist, John always displayed a competitive and enthusiastic attitude. Over the years he’s mellowed slightly enough to look at life and people around him with a different view, but still with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure – this too comes across in his words, spoken or written. Close calls on a bike never deterred him from carrying on; it’s the same mettle displayed in his current reporting profession. Everyone who knows or who has met John hopes he will once again walk away from a dangerous situation.”

Cantlie started his reporting career at computer gaming magazines in the early 1990s, and gained his nickname when he appeared in a helmet with Sonic the Hedgehog graphics. Good luck and Godspeed, Sonic.

Lead image courtesy of SuperBike magazine

  • edbob

    Superbike was my favorite magazine back in the days before I could even afford a bike (I could scarecely afford a copy of it – it was a copy of superbike or 3 slices of pizza but not both), and John was one of my favorite reporters. Good luck, Sonic.

  • Murat Oğuz Kanpak

    I hope he is freed without any harm. I know him from his Superbike magazine days, and he is a cool guy. I felt he was taking too many chances in his recent work in the Middle East and Afghanistan though…

  • Gabe Ets-Hokin

    I’m not one to be a bloodthirsty a-hole, but I have a 3-word solution to the ISIL problem: snake and nape.