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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass holds screening of documentary honoring late journalist James Foley

(Jessica Piccard/ Daily Collegian)
(Jessica Piccard/ Daily Collegian)

It was August of 2014 when the late journalist and University of Massachusetts alumnus James Foley was beheaded by the terrorist group known as the Islamic Slate. Foley and British photojournalist John Cantlie were abducted in November of 2012 while the pair were on their way to meet Foley’s coworker, Nicole Tung.

Monday night the journalism department showed the HBO documentary “Jim: The James Foley Story” about his life, in the Integrated Learning Center. The filmmaker, Brian Oakes, and Foley’s parents, Diane and John, were also present for the showing.

The documentary went into Foley’s life and his career as a freelance journalist. Starting off with Foley’s journey to Libya to investigate and cover the events of the conflict regarding the former Prime Minister of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. Foley was among a team of first line journalists there.

In 2011, Foley and his co-workers were imprisoned in Libya, but were released later that year. Foley continued working as a crisis journalist and went to Syria, where he reported for media outlets such as GlobalPost. Foley was abducted during one of his trips to Syria. For a period of time, the Foley family and the U.S. government did not know where Foley was or who had abducted him.

ISIS started to exchange emails with one of Foley’s brother in which they informed the family that Foley was safe, mentioned negotiations and specifically asked the family to not go to the media or government. Foley’s brother replied asking for more information. Throughout these email exchanges, the terrorist group asked for the Foley family to either negotiate and release Muslim people imprisoned in American prisons, or provide them with 100,000,000 euros.

ISIS slowly released a number of prisoners from the cell that the group of American journalists, including Foley, were held captive in. In August of 2014, a message was received from Foley through video documentation in which he recited a prepared script of mainly negative points about the United States. Foley was later beheaded in this video.

Following the documentary capturing Foley’s life there was a panel including Foley’s parents and writer of the documentary, Heather MacDonald. The group answered questions from Journalism Department Chair Kathy Forde, and the audience members.

Foley’s mother explained that the film’s purpose was to “shed light on those people putting their life on the line day in and day out to tell [underrepresented] stories.”

A student from the audience asked the panel “how do we begin bringing about to change … and bring light to what Foley started?”

“Right here [at home]. There are vital stories in our hometown, right around the corner. While Jim was here at UMass he volunteered at [the Holyoke Care Center] and helped them to get their GEDs at the time because he was really moved by the stories right around the corner from where we live,” Diane said. “There are so many things happening right now and you can be part of that…of helping us to understand them and to hear those stories.”

Another member of the audience asked the panel, “How has your views on journalism changed?”

“We have learned … there is a real need to be able to tell the truth,” John said. “I am for journalism. It is just not for me”

Foley’s mother added that she had “no idea how dangerous journalism can be.” She also said, “journalists need to [be able to] assess risks.”

MacDonald concluded the session by stating that the “objective [of the documentary] was to tell the story of this person [Foley] we know and loved.”

Megha Srinivasan can be reached at [email protected].

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    David Hunt 1990Sep 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    He was killed by Muslim extremists who have promised to, and succeeded in, planting their agents in the refugee stream. And Hillary wants to bring ONE MILLION+ here in just her first term.

    If you are not scared after this 15-minute video, you have no survival instinct.