Updated: Medill alum James Foley taken in Syria, family says

Cat Zakrzewski, Reporter

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Updated, 8 p.m. Wednesday: 

When Foley was captured in 2011, the Northwestern community advocated for his support and release with a rally. University spokesman Al Cubbage said at this time, the University does not have any specific plans for a similar event, but that will likely change as more information becomes available.

“The University would like to extend its support to his family and our hope that our alum will come home soon and come home safely,” Cubbage said.

When Foley was captured in Libya, Medill graduate students in the global journalism course created a website to assist in the efforts to return Foley to the United States. Medill Prof. Loren Ghiglione said since his release, Foley has given back to the Medill community, speaking with his class via Skype, talking to groups of students when he was in the United States and lecturing in the school’s Crane Lecture series.

Ghiglione said his class spoke with Foley via Skype in November when he was on assignment in Syria. When students asked Foley how he felt about returning to dangerous areas to report after he was imprisoned, the professor explained that Foley talked about the importance of the story and what he learned from the experience.

“He said … he tries to be even more cautious than he was in Libya when he was taken the last time,” Ghiglione said. “It’s just sad that yet again we don’t know what’s happening to him.”

Ghiglione said he will be personally contacting Foley’s family to see how the Medill community can help this time.

“We will do whatever the family thinks is appropriate,” he said. “I think we should follow their lead.”

Next quarter, Ghiglione will be teaching the South Africa journalism course, and he said Foley’s story will likely make the discussions about safety resonate even more.

“We’ve always had to worry about security issues with students,” he said. “It’s depressing to somebody who’s teaching courses that are essentially preparing people to go to places that may not be safe.”

Ghiglione emphasized that Foley was a veteran reporter and that no matter how careful reporters are, there are “so many forces at play.”

“He’s not a reckless kid,” he said. “It just reminds you how dangerous this work is.”

Original story:

Freelance journalist James Foley (Medill ’08) was reportedly kidnapped while reporting in war-torn Syria, his family announced Wednesday, six weeks after he went missing.

This is the second time Foley has been taken captive while reporting abroad. In the spring of 2011, the experienced conflict-zone reporter was held in captivity for more than 42 days in Libya. He was eventually released May 19 of that year.

An Indian news outlet reported Wednesday that four armed men kidnapped Foley, 39, in the Northern Syrian providence of Idlib on Nov. 22. Foley was with an unidentified fellow journalist, who is also missing. Foley’s driver and translator were also picked up in the town of Taftanaz, but they were later released.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 28 reporters were killed in Syria in 2012. The group named Syria the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in that year.

The Hindustan Times reported no group has claimed responsibility for Foley’s abduction. The journalist’s family has launched a Facebook page and website to appeal for his release.

In a press release on the website dated Dec. 30, the family appealed for public awareness.

“We want Jim to come safely home, or at least we need to speak with him to know he’s OK,” his father, John Foley, said. “Jim is an objective journalist and we appeal for the release of Jim unharmed. To the people who have Jim, please contact us so we can work together toward his release.”

– Cat Zakrzewski

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