It’s now been seven years since Austin Tice was detained in Syria. Why is the American freelance journalist still being held in Syria? That’s the question his family would like answered and they are absolutely convinced that Austin is still alive.
The story of Austin Tice’s capture in Syria in 2012 has floated in and out of news coverage during the last seven years. Mostly, though, his story has fallen away from the headlines and out of the thoughts of Americans. Fortunately, I am beginning to see more frequent stories about Tice in news coverage. Restaurants around the nation, including in Tice’s hometown of Houston, pledged a portion of their profits to raise awareness and funds for Tice Thursday night. It was called a National Night Out for Austin Tice. The National Press Club and partners teamed up with restaurants to raise awareness of Austin’s story.
Austin Tice is the only American journalist currently being held overseas. He is a George Polk Award honoree and a National Press Club Press Freedom honoree. A freelance journalist, he has written for McClatchy, The Washington Post, and CBS. That all ended in August 2012. He was captured outside of Damascus, Syria. He was last seen at a checkpoint while covering the civil war there. Since his capture, his parents Marc and Debra Tice, the FBI, and the National Press Club and associates have worked to bring Tice home. Funds raised by National Night Out for Austin Tice will go toward the $1 million reward for information leading to Austin’s safe return home announced by the FBI in April 2018. Federal authorities said at the time there is every reason to believe he is alive.
“Night Out is a tangible way for people to take action in their own communities and express the essential role of credible journalism in the way we live our lives and make decisions that affect us both locally and globally,” campaign organizers stated on the website.
“There are many Americans of Syrian heritage — as well as many Syrian refugees in the U.S. — who could know somebody in Syria or talk to them on a regular basis. We believe we can raise an additional $1 million through this program, which would double the reward and increase the chances that Austin is released.”
Senator John Cornyn, President Trump, and Vice-President Pence have publicly declared they are doing all they can to bring Tice home. President Trump met with Austin’s parents and they both expressed gratitude and confidence in his administration’s commitment. Trump has had great success in bringing home Americans held hostage overseas.
NBC News picked up the story this week and did an interview with Austin’s parents. During the interview, Marc and Debra Tice expressed confidence that their son is alive in Syria.
And while he waits (let it be no longer) we work – with tremendous support from staunch advocates like @LesterHoltNBC and @NBCNews. Thank you, thank you for being on this journey with us to #FreeAustinTice. https://t.co/Yqm1uwl0c0
— Marc Tice (@MarcATice) May 4, 2019
Austin Tice has packed quite a lot into his 38 years of life. The oldest of his seven siblings, he graduated early from high school and enrolled in University of Houston’s honors program at age 15. He studied law at Georgetown University. He’s an Eagle Scout. Oh yeah, he’s also a captain in the Marine Corps. According to his brother Jacob, it was his skills learned in the Marine Corps and time spent in the Middle East that drew him to cover the Arab Spring.
Austin, Jacob said, felt his skills with reporting and his time with the Marines made him uniquely qualified to cover the Middle East post Arab Spring.
“He had this need to bring the stories of what was happening there to the attention of the western world,” Jacob said.
He never intended to make it a career. He still had some classes to take at Georgetown University in order to get his law degree and was preparing to leave Syria.
“When he talked to us about it, he was passionate about it,” Jacob said. “My brother is driven by ‘I can do this thing so I should do this thing’.”
Jacob said the reward announced by the FBI has produced new leads.
“Since then, my family and other people involved have been receiving information that we feel is really helpful,” Jacob said. He hopes that even more money will increase the incentive to provide more information.
Chef Susan Delbert of @PressClubDC’s @4thEstate Restaurant paused for a moment of reflection with our kitchen staff tonight before service began for #NightOutForAustinTice #FreeAustinTice pic.twitter.com/3hgoYRD3BH
— National Press Club (@PressClubDC) May 2, 2019
Marc and Debra Tice have traveled to the region several times and keep in contact with the Syrian government. Let’s hope Austin is released soon and on his way home.