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Foley Speaks Freely

Medill alumnus James Foley discusses experience of 44 days in Libyan captivity

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June 3, 2011 | by Matt Paolelli

Listen to James Foley's complete Crain Lecture

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Fifteen days after his release from captivity in Libya, GlobalPost reporter and Medill alumnus James Foley returned to campus to speak about the harrowing experience to a capacity crowd at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum as part of the Crain Lecture Series.

In a Q&A format moderated by Medill lecturer Tim McNulty, Foley candidly detailed the experiences that led to his captivity and the lessons he learned as a freelance correspondent in a combat zone. On April 5, Foley -- who began reporting from Libya for GlobalPost in mid-March -- was the object of pro-Gadhafi troop gunfire that killed South African photographer Anton Hammerl. American journalists Clare Gillis and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo also were targets.

After being punched in the face and hit in the head with the butt-end of an AK-47, Foley, Gillis and Brabo were handcuffed with electrical cords and taken to Tripoli, where they were held captive for more than six weeks. Foley, Gillis and Brabo, as well as British freelancer Nigel Chandler, were released May 18 after being convicted of entering Libya without a visa, and fined approximately $150. Foley -- who earned a master’s degree from Medill in 2008 -- arrived in the United States May 21 and was reunited with his family.

As he returns to life after captivity, Foley said he feels a strong responsibility toward the family of killed South African photographer Hammerl.

“Our story is a very cautionary tale,” he said. “Every day I have to deal with the fact that Anton is not going to ever see his three kids anymore.”

Topics: People, Campus Life