Alternately fighting tears and speaking out strongly for press freedoms and protections for freelance journalists, the parents of slain journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff accepted the newly-created Citation of Courage awards from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation on Wednesday (March 11) in Washington.
Foley and Sotloff were freelance journalists kidnapped and murdered by ISIS.
The pair were saluted by RTDNF executive director and chairman Chris Carl, who said they would serve as an inspiration to others for their willingness to "carry pens, microphones and cameras towards danger, not away from it."
Foley's mother, Diane, said her son had been "really concerned about the underdog, people who didn't have a voice." She said the voice that Foley provided "has to continue."
Mrs. Foley said she hoped to establish an American Hostage Resource Center, with a particular focus on freelance journalists, who she said are often the ones in the conflict zones. The grieving mother also said she hoped to work with the media so they would advocate more for their colleagues when they are taken hostage.
Dinner host and NBC's Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd called on all the news bosses to fight as hard for the rights, protections and freedoms of freelance journalists as hard as they do for their own journalists.
Foley's father, John, said he thought it was incumbent on the media "to help conflict journalists who are captives." He pointed out that the Spanish and French media have established committees that meet regularly, collect information, vet rumors and "demand action.
"We cannot afford to be silent. We cannot afford to just get the sound bite or come to my house and be the next person in line." He said freedom of the press is not something that is given. "It has to be defended."
He said everyone needed to come together to maintain independent news sources, "otherwise we can buy it from foreign countries," he said.
Sotloffs' mother, Shirley, said her son had wanted to tell the stories of those oppressed. She said he had asked them not to grieve for him, but instead to honor him by "deeply cherishing" their freedoms and to encourage others never to take them for granted.