Slain journalist's legacy was his passion for truth

New Hampshire Union Leader
August 23. 2014 10:43PM
American soldiers tend to wounded comrades at the scene of a firefight in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in September 2010. 

M any words have been used to describe New Hampshire-based journalist James Foley since his killing at the hands of Islamic State insurgents last Tuesday. "Kind," "fearless," "dedicated" and "brave" among them.

August 2012: “As the war rages on, the flow of victims and blood shows no signs of letting up,” Foley narrates in a video published from Aleppo, Syria. (GLOBALPOST.COM)

Perhaps the best words to use when remembering the Rochester native are his own.

GlobalPost, the online international news outlet for which Foley, 40, was working when he was abducted in Syria in 2012 - and when he was captured in Libya by dictator Moammar Gadhafi's forces in 2011 - has put together a collection of what his colleagues feel are examples of Foley's best work. The videos include footage of a firefight in Afghanistan, the youngest casualties of war in Syria, and his own account of being kidnapped by Gadhafi forces.

Image from video shot from a moving car before James Foley and two other journalists were taken captive in Libya in 2011. A fourth journalist was killed. "I didn't want to be the guy that said 'Let's turn around,'" Foley said later in an account of the capture and his six-week detention. (GLOBALPOST.COM)

In a Global Post piece dated Sept. 27, 2011, "Why They Fight Muammar Gaddafi," Foley explains why some soldiers continued to fight for Gaddafi, a month after the fall of Tripoli.

"The threat of civil war is also likely motivating many soldiers to continue fighting. Omran (a soldier) said that a strong central leader like Gaddafi was needed to prevent the breakup of the country.

Even outside observers and leaders in the West have expressed concern that Libya could fall into civil war after the last remnants of Gaddafi's army are defeated.

September 2011: In an interview with James Foley, Matthew Van Dyke, an American citizen, recounts his six months of captivity in a Libyan prison near Tripoli.

"Power struggles between rebels based in the western part of the country and rebels based in the city of Benghazi in the East have already been well documented.

Muftah Sadik, a loyalist soldier from Sirte who surrendered in July, said those officers who are members of Gaddafi's tribe in Sirte would never surrender.

James Foley leaves a legacy of video and print journalism on, the online news outlet for which he was working when he was captured by Islamic militants in November 2012. (GLOBALPOST.COM)

"He guessed that at least two Gaddafi battalions had pulled back from the eastern front to further defend the city."

Pieces like that one aren't produced without going to where the conflict is, hitting the streets and talking to locals, said Phil Balboni, co-founder and CEO of GlobalPost.

"He (Foley) was old-school, someone who talked to the locals and always put the story first," said Balboni.

In April 2011, Foley was held in a Libyan military detention center while working for GlobalPost.

Here's an excerpt from a short piece about his 44-day detention, published in the alumni magazine at his alma mater, Marquette University:

"Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith. I prayed she'd know I was OK.

"I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her. I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed.

"I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. Upstairs in the warden's office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, 'We felt you might want to call your families.' I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. 'Mom, Mom, it's me, Jim.'?"

When he was kidnapped in Libya in 2011, Foley was traveling with a photographer, Anton Hammerl, and two other journalists.

Hammerl was killed and the others were detained in a Libyan jail with him.

In a video at GlobalPost, Foley recalls the incident by saying, "Every day I have to deal with the fact that Anton is not going to ever see his three kids anymore. I was part of that decision-making process that took him away from his kids and his wife."

In the same piece, Foley recalls how he "didn't want to be the one" to suggest they pull back from their position, prior to capture, despite his growing unease at the situation around him.

"It's another example of how he put the story before himself," said Balboni. "He had a knack for dealing with conflict, capturing it and presenting the story to the world."

A Mass of "healing, hope and for peace" to remember James Foley is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, 189 N. Main St. in Rochester. A memorial Mass will be held at the church for Foley on Oct. 18, on what would have been his 41st birthday.

A prayer vigil was scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30 at Rochester Commons and another is set for Tuesday on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

Learn more about him by viewing GlobalPost's collection of his work at:

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