Each year on World Press Freedom Day, journalists worldwide emphasize their continued push to exercise the right to report on international affairs, with those from the U.S. expressing their First Amendment liberty.
May 3 was also a day this year to honor those making strides to bring wrongfully convicted American journalists home at the James W. Foley Freedom Awards in Washington D.C., and online, hosted by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation — founded in 2014 by the Foley family.
Awards at the ceremony were presented to journalists who fight for “moral courage and hostage advocacy, world press freedom, humanitarian work and government service,” as PBS Senior Correspondent Judy Woodruff stated.
The four receiving honors at the event were Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Mickey Bergman, Richardson Center for Global Engagement vice president and senior advisor, Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of Syrian emergency task force and Sean Langan, a documentary filmmaker and journalist.
Carstens received the Robert A. Levinson Excellence in Government Service award, Bergman the American Hostage Freedom award, Moustafa the Humanitarian award and Langan the World Press Freedom award.
To date, governments and terror groups across the globe still unlawfully capture, detain and murder journalists simply trying to do their job, with 363 still being held captive.
James W. Foley
James W. Foley was a freelance video journalist with rich experience in the field after growing up in Wolfeboro. Throughout his career, Foley showed compassion and dedication, working as a freelance embedded journalist on assignment in Iraq from 2008 until 2010, and also writing for Stars and Stripes while in Afghanistan in 2011.
“To me it keeps Jim’s (James’) legacy alive, this is Jim’s legacy,” said his mother Diane Foley at the Freedom Awards. She is the president and founder of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.
“There are two real moral issues that we confront tonight, right? We’re concerned about fellow Americans who are purposely targeted abroad and then taken hostage to be used for leverage in whatever geopolitical need that captor may have. And the other, the second, is the direct threat to our journalists, who are the bedrock of our democracy,” she said.
Diane Foley called on President Biden to take action for all U.S. journalists held hostage abroad, stating that “we’re all citizens” and that “our country must choose to intentionally put our people above our policy, our self-interest, our political ego. We must choose to bring our people home and value our journalists.”
Diane Foley has worked tirelessly to shed light onto the 53 Americans who are unjustly detained and requests a change in foreign policy to serve and protect the nation’s journalists, and prevent ruthless killings from continuing.
“These problems are complex, and we need everyone here to help us,” she said.
James Foley was consistent in displaying bravery and reporting on foreign violence while risking his life. In 2011, he traveled to Libya to report on the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi, inserting himself into the action with rebel fighters. There, he was captured by Gaddafi loyalists, and imprisoned for 44 days.
Despite this hardship, Foley was determined to return to work, and soon traveled back to Libya, on location at the moment of Gaddafi’s capture, displaying his desire to continue telling global stories.
On November 22, 2012, Foley was captured by ISIS while working as a correspondent for the Syrian Civil War, with GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse. He gained worldwide attention during captivity, with millions sending their thoughts and prayers with the hopes that he would make it home, as he had done previously.
Roughly two years later, despite ongoing negotiations and a failed rescue attempt, he was the first American citizen to be killed by the radicalized terror group ISIS in the Raqqa region of Syria on Aug. 19, 2014.
After his death, his family founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation based in Portsmouth, saying, “We catalyze action, research and policy to advocate for freedom for all US nationals wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad, to ensure government accountability to prioritize their safe return and to educate and protect journalists and international travelers.”