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James Foley's family reacts to new hostage policy

The family of former Marquette University student James Foley is reacting to America's new hostage policy.

A change in that policy announced on June 24 will directly affect families of Americans held overseas.

Many of the families told the news that they, at times, felt like an afterthought.

Under the new policy, the US Government will continue to refuse to pay ransom for those hostages, but now families who pay on their own will not be prosecuted.

James Foley was a journalist and the first American to be executed in ISIS captivity.

His mother talked about the frustration of trying to work with the government in the days before Foley's death.

We are grateful to the Hostage Review team for shining a spotlight on the silent crisis of American citizens kidnapped abroad. Too often the average American has no idea that Americans working abroad are being kidnapped, held against their will, often starved and tortured. The rise of terrorism has hugely increased the risk for courageous journalists, humanitarian workers, diplomats, students and tourists.

We want to commend the Hostage Review team for their in-depth evaluation of the American hostage issue. We applaud their willingness to examine the previously inadequate response to the kidnapping of American citizens abroad. The leadership of Lisa Monaco and Jen Easterly from the White House, and General Bennet Sacolick and his National Counterterrorism Team is both reassuring and hopeful to the Foley family.

Our son, James W. Foley, was like so many Americans. He was idealistic, and passionately believed in freedom and justice. He believed that press freedom was vital to our democracy. He wanted fellow Americans to know the suffering and courage of Middle Eastern families and their yearning for similar freedoms. He went into harm's way, fully knowing the risk to personal safety. He trusted that his work as a conflict journalist was valued by fellow Americans and thus by his government.

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation (JWFLF) was established immediately after Jim's brutal murder to continue Jim's courageous work for the voiceless, for press freedom to reveal the deep suffering of families amid war, for kidnapped citizens, for freelance journalists/photographers in conflict zones, and for at risk youth.

Jim wanted to make a difference in the world. Perhaps his horrific death was necessary to awaken the American public and our government.

The first urgent goal of the JWFLF is to address this silent crisis of kidnapped Americans abroad. Specifically, Jim's Foundation will:

  • Advocate for American hostages and hold our government accountable for their safe return. Today, there are currently 35 Americans being held unjustly in various places around the world.
  •  Support the urgent need for robust, current research to evaluate if our current hostage policy is actually saving American lives. The litmus test of this new Hostage recovery process will be the safe return of Americans such as Austin Tice, Jason Rezazian, Catie Coleman and other many unnamed citizens
  • Stand up an independent entity, Hostage US, that will focus exclusively on the needs of American hostage families and returning Americans.

The second urgent goal of the JWFLF is to challenge the international journalistic community -- both news organizations and NGO's such as Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Rory Peck Trust, and many others to work together to protect a free press and an equitable means to get news from dangerous conflict zones. Too many freelance journalists and photographers are currently risking their lives protecting our right to know.

We applaud journalists like David Rohde of Reuters, David Milliken of AFP, Charlie Sennott of the Ground Truth Project and NGO's like FFR, Rory Peck Trust, RSF and others for their leadership resulting in the Call for Worldwide Freelance Protection Standards. We commend the online news organizations such as BBC, AFP, AP, Global Post and others who have signed on to the Guidelines for Freelancer Safety.

At the same time, Jim's Foundation will also invite and continue to challenge the powerful print and television news organizations who have not yet agreed to join this vital effort.

We never want any family to ever have to endure what we have gone through. It is time for our great nation to make American hostages and their families a top priority.

It is the mission of JWFLF to build on this awakening to make kidnapped Americans a true priority and to make this new hostage recovery effort real and sustainable.

Anyone interested in supporting the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, can find more information at jamesfoleyfoundation.org.

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