Family of journalist seized in Syria break their silence

Jan. 8, 2013 at 10:27 AM ET

The relatives of a missing freelance journalist have lifted a self-imposed silence about the abduction, hoping their public appeal Tuesday will yield details about the American correspondent seized by gunmen in Syria.

James Foley disappeared more than six weeks ago while covering Syria for the U.S.-based Global Post. His family had kept quiet about the abduction, hoping the low profile would encourage negotiations with his captors. They broke their silence after failing to get any new details about his disappearance.

 “We felt that it was important to make people aware and remind them that Jim is an objective journalist, he’s an innocent journalist who is doing his job, and to appeal to the people that are holding him, to release him safely, to release him unharmed,” Michael Foley, the journalist's brother, told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

Global Post executives have been extremely helpful in search efforts, but the family has not learned anything new, prompting them to launch a website,

“We’ve turned over every rock, as you can imagine,” Michael Foley said.

James' and Michael's mother, Diane Foley, said she last heard from James right before Thanksgiving. He had called to express his condolences about the death of her 104-year-old aunt.

“He called just to say he was sorry and that he would be home soon and was thinking of me,” Diane said.

She said the call illustrates the passionate, caring nature of her 39-year-old son, who was a teacher before he became a journalist.

“He really wants to give voice to people in conflict. He’s very interested in people. A really good listener, and really cares, particularly about the vulnerable ones, the children in the midst of the war, and the civilians in the midst of it all,” she said.

Foley has reported extensively in the Middle East and North Africa. This is not the first time he has been abducted. He was held for more than a month in Libya after being captured in April 2011.

But that case was different, Diane Foley said.

“He was sighted then. We have not even seen him (this time). No one has witnessed him since he was kidnapped. It’s very different that way. We don’t know who is holding him. We really need to hear from Jim,” she said.

Foley’s abduction occurred about a month before NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was seized with his four-man camera crew in the same northern province of Idlib. The group was held captive for five days, and their capture underscores the danger journalists face covering the war-torn nation.


Richard Engel and team freed from captors in Syria

Final member of NBC News team working with Richard Engel crosses safely from Syria

Engel and crew believed they wouldn't make it out of Syria alive