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Parents plead for journalist son who vanished in Syria a year ago

Oct. 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM ET

Video: It’s been one year since freelance journalist James Foley went missing after crossing the border into Syria. His parents, Diane and John, tell TODAY’s Matt Lauer they had no idea that their ordeal would drag on for a year, and plead James’ captors to have mercy on him.

The parents of an American journalist who disappeared while reporting from Syria made an appeal Thursday for information about their son, saying they know no more now than they did when he vanished nearly a year ago.

“We’ve heard nothing. Nothing. We last knew that he was abducted on Thanksgiving Day in the Idlib province, but we don’t know who took him or why,” John Foley said on TODAY.

James Foley was taken at gunpoint while covering Syria as a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, a U.S.–based news service. His mother, Diane, said she never expected her ordeal to drag out for this long.

“We had no idea. Tomorrow is Jim’s birthday. He’ll be 40 years old tomorrow, so if he can hear us, we’d like to wish him a happy birthday and let him know how hard we’re working to bring him home,” she said.

The Foleys were in New York to meet with United Nations representatives to see what attention could be brought to the case. The family launched a website, FreeJamesFoley.org, and many people have tried to help, but they said they have learned very little about what happened to their son.

“We have no idea who took him or why, because Jim was — is — an objective journalist, very interested in Syrian people, wanting to cover the conflict and hear their stories,” Diane Foley said.

Diane Foley, John Foley
TODAY
Diane and John Foley, parents of missing journalist James Foley, appealed for him on TODAY.

Her son reported extensively in the Middle East and North Africa. He has reported about conflicts from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where he was once held captive for 44 days.

John Foley said he knows his son has a dangerous job, but “he’s not reckless” and “he’s taken taken whatever precautions are available” in the last eight years as a foreign correspondent.

“It’s his passion to want to report the story that brings him into that dangerous situation,” he said.

During a TODAY appearance in January, Diane Foley said she last heard from her son right before Thanksgiving, when he called to express condolences about the death of her 104-year-old aunt.

On Thursday, Diane spoke about how the conflict in Syria has created widespread grief and anguish.

“There are a lot of people suffering in Syria. Our son is one of many,” she acknowledged. “There’s suffering on all sides. We just ask his captors to recognize his innocence and his desire to help the Syrian people and to please have mercy and let him be free.”

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