NPC Calls for Release of Journalist Austin Tice

Austin Tice

The National Press Club in Washington, DC today upped the public awareness campaign calling for the immediate release of war correspondent Austin Tice who was kidnapped on August 13, 2012, after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus, Syria.

The campaign is part of the Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership drive to #FreeAustinTice along with several partners involved in press freedom including the National Press Club, Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute, James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, One Free Press Coalition, Reporters Without Borders and the World Association of News Publishers among several others.

In calling for his release, the club placed a highly visible banner along the busy F Street side of its headquarters building in a large display window with the message #BringAustinHome. The partners are again demanding that the US government engage with Syria in seeking Austin’s immediate release. His almost 11 years of captivity coupled without any word from him is inhumanely cruel especially for his family and friends who remain hopeful that he is alive.

Tice, an award-winning journalist who had just turned 31 at the time of his abduction, was working on his final pieces prior to his departure the following day in heading home to start his final year at Georgetown Law. As an alumnus of the Georgetown Foreign Service School, the former US Marine Corps officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq was acutely aware of the dangers of being a war correspondent.

Working for CBS, The Washington Post and McClatchy, among other publications, he was able to bring a perspective to his coverage as one who had seen the region from many sides, often lamenting about the plight of children being exposed to and living in such horrific conditions that conflict and war impose upon them.

In a display about his abduction at the former Newseum he was quoted as saying, “No kid should ever have to know that things like this happen in the world, much less be forced to live and sometimes die this way.” In a series of photographs the affable journalist captured Syrian children smiling in the most hellish conditions among the ravages of war.

Since his abduction, Austin has only been seen once five weeks after afterward in a short 46-second video that appeared on YouTube. While the video shows a disheveled and blindfolded Tice surrounded by an unknown group of heavily armed men, some officials have disputed the authenticity of the clip including whether the person depicted is Tice. Contrary to their opinion, his family and friends believe that it is Austin.

Regarding the identity of his captors, in October of 2012 it was reported that “…a US spokesperson said it was believed, based on the limited information it had, that Tice was in the custody of the Syrian government.” In response to the US charge, the Syrian government has denied that they are holding Tice. To date, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Austin’s plight is being held alive at the National Press Club that has for several years displayed his picture on a large video monitor in its foyer with a clock recording the amount of time he has spent in captivity in years, days, hours, minutes and seconds with the message “Today would be a good day to #FreeAustinTice.”

In the club’s library a small glass display case holds some of Austin’s personal effects including his 2012 McClatchy Presidential award, the George Polk Award for War Reporting, his classic Converse All Star basketball shoes and a reporter’s notebook with handwritten notes on its cover. The display evokes a powerful personal dimension of this tragic story while maintaining hope that he will one day very soon be united with his family and friends.

Photo Phil Pasquini

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)

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