Family of James Foley honors one year anniversary of his capture

James Foley went missing Nov. 22, 2012. His parents said in October that they dont know where he is.

Source: Nicole Tung

James Foley went missing Nov. 22, 2012. His parents said in October that they don’t know where he is.

Cat Zakrzewski, Web Editor

Six weeks after James Foley (Medill ‘08) was captured in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012, his family launched an international campaign to gather information about the freelance journalist’s location.

On the first anniversary of his capture, his parents have called for Friday to be a global day of prayer for their son’s return. The latest development about his location came on World Press Freedom Day in May, when Philip Balboni, the CEO and founder of international news outlet GlobalPost, announced investigators believed Foley was being held near Damascus by the Syrian government.

“This is a somber day for us; but also a day to renew our commitment to find our beloved Jim and bring him home,” Diane and John Foley wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Jim will return home; but as many of his dear friends know, he tends to run late….”

The day of prayer caps almost a year of efforts by the Foley family to keep the spotlight on the investigation of their son’s capture. In January, they first announced his capture and started the “Find James Foley” website to offer information to the press and ask for information in Arabic. His family also created a Facebook campaign in February to ask about his location in the region.

Near James Foley’s 40th birthday in October, John and Diane Foley appeared on the “Today” show, where they said they never anticipated their son would be missing for so long. Despite the May announcement that the government was likely holding James Foley, his parents said in October they have no idea who is holding him.

“We’ve heard nothing,” John Foley said on the show.

The Foley family’s search for their son is all too familiar. In April 2011, Libyan soldiers detained James Foley, along with two other journalists, and held him for 44 days.

“He’s not reckless,” Jim Foley said on the show. “As you well know, it’s a very dangerous business. … He’s taken whatever precautions have been available. It’s his passion to want to report the story that brings him into that dangerous situation.”

Both times Foley was captured, the Northwestern community has responded. This time, the University initially struggled to assist in the efforts due to the lack of information about his capture. In May, the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications hosted a watch party for “Silenced Voices: When Conflict Journalists Go Missing,” the event in Boston where Balboni shared developments in Foley’s capture.

At that event, Medill Prof. Jack Doppelt moderated a panel of veteran conflict-zone reporters, which included Roxanna Saberi (Medill ‘99). Saberi wrote a bestselling novel about her imprisonment in Tehran on the grounds of espionage.

Months later, Medill’s continued support for the Foley family remains visible in the plastic “Free James Foley” buttons scattered throughout Fisk Hall and the McCormick Tribune Center. In honor of the one year anniversary of Foley’s capture, the Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council spearheaded a social media campaign, asking students to tweet why they think free press is important with the hashtag “#FreeJamesFoley.”

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Twitter: @Cat_Zakrzewski