Charles Sennott receives James W. Foley World Press Freedom Award

WASHINGTON — The GroundTruth Project’s founder and editor-in-chief, Charles Sennott, received the James W. Foley World Press Freedom Award last night during a fundraiser celebrating the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation’s 10th anniversary.

The Foley Foundation was founded following the death of journalist James “Jim” Foley who was captured and later killed by ISIS while reporting from Syria. The Foley Awards honor those who demonstrate moral courage and share the foundation’s commitment to freeing Americans held captive abroad and promoting journalist safety. 

“I believe the challenge now for all of us who care about press freedom is not just to cover the story but to help build local news ecosystems in each of these places,” implored Sennott in his acceptance speech. “We have to support local reporters who serve their own local communities, in their own countries, if we are going to truly affect change.”

Sennott is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and editor with 40 years of experience in international, national, and local journalism. Beyond touching upon the work GroundTruth is now doing through its flagship programs, Report for America and Report for the World, Sennott devoted much of his remarks to Foley, who was a friend and colleague at GlobalPost.

“Jim’s calling to bear witness to the innocent lives caught up in war has provided a true north for us at The GroundTruth Project,” Sennott said. “After Jim was gone, he stayed with us guiding me on a journey to build our organization, a nonprofit with a mission to give a new generation of journalists the opportunities, resources, and safety training they need to serve as reporters in communities in under-covered corners of the world.”

Sennott’s entire speech can be found here. He was presented his award by Diane Foley, Jim’s mother, and the foundation’s president.

Diane Foley and Charles Sennott at the Foley Freedom Awards, held at the National Press Club, May 1, 2024. (Photo by Rahim Jessani/GroundTruth)

“I am so proud of how far our country has come in freeing wrongfully detained individuals but the challenges are great. We have more and more innocent Americans being targeted around the world,” Diane Foley said in her remarks to attendees, adding, “A lot of what inspires moral courage is love. It’s the love of our family. It’s love of country. It’s the love of our dreams. All of that love engenders the desire and courage to do the right thing. To sacrifice ourselves for others. I am so proud of the country for stepping up.” 

Amna Nawaz, co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour, emceed the event, which was held at the National Press Club and included a performance by legendary musician, activist and actor, Sting. Sennott was joined by family, close friends, and several GroundTruth board members and supporters.

“Our entire GroundTruth team is extremely proud of Charlie and his remarkable career — not only as a journalist but as a social entrepreneur who has truly made a difference in reimagining the role journalism can play in serving communities across the globe,” said Rob Zeaske, CEO and president of The GroundTruth Project. “With World Press Freedom Day taking place this week, it’s only fitting that someone like Charlie receive this tremendous honor from such an important cause as the Foley Foundation.”

Also honored last night were:

James W. Foley American Hostage Freedom Award – Chris Costa, a former career U.S. Army intelligence officer who served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council. He is currently executive director of the International Spy Museum and a member of the Foley Foundation’s board of directors. At the NSC, he coordinated counterterrorism policy and strategy and U.S. hostage recovery activities.

James W. Foley Humanitarian Award – Narrative 4, led by Colum McCann and Lisa Consiglio. The organization is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion through storytelling. Its mission is to create a global community where young people learn to listen with radical empathy. Consiglio, the CEO, and McCann, a member of its board, are co-founders of Narrative 4.

Robert A. Levinson Excellence in Government Service Award – FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, a 30-year veteran of the agency. He has played a pivotal role in hostage recovery, supporting the work of the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, and engaging with families whose loved ones are held captive. His leadership has contributed to the return of hundreds of Americans held abroad and provided accountability to perpetrators. Under his leadership, the FBI took on a key role in bringing the ISIS terrorist El Shafee Elsheikh to justice for his role in the deaths of James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig.

About The GroundTruth Project

The GroundTruth Project is an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up. GroundTruth serves under-covered communities by supporting the next generation of journalists to do on-the-ground reporting and to advance sustainability, innovation and equity in journalism worldwide. GroundTruth’s flagship programs — Report for America and Report for the World — place talented, diverse local reporters in the newsrooms that need them most.