Today marks six years since American journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria. Tice has been held captive in the country since August 2012. His mother, Debra Tice, has unrelentingly advocated for her son’s return. Tice was one of the first Western journalists to be kidnapped during the Syrian Civil War.
In 2016, Debra Tice stated, “Austin’s captors have to reach out and let us know what they expect,” she said. “They need to be aware, this is an opportunity. It could be quite a long period of time before they are able to approach a new administration.”
The intelligence community confirmed in 2016 that Tice is likely alive, and under the Trump administration, efforts were made to create a back channel between the CIA and Syria’s National Security Bureau intelligence service to discuss Tice’s release.
Yet progress stalled, and some former diplomats cite a March 2017 comment from Nikki Haley, American ambassador to the United Nations, as a weakening point in American negotiations with the Syrian government. “You pick and choose your battles,” said Haley, “and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities. And our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
However, for the first time since learning of Tice’s abduction, in April 2018, the FBI announced a $1 million reward for any information resulting in Austin’s safe return home. The Columbia Journalism Review reports that “the Trump administration has made the recovery of American hostages a foreign-policy priority and the Tices say they have met with senior officials, including briefly with President Trump himself.”
According to the Washington Post, “2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists.” As of December 1, 2017, Reporters Without Borders reported that 326 journalists are currently detained, one of those journalists being Tice. Currently, five additional journalists are lost in Syria while over 120 representatives of the press have been killed reporting the country’s ongoing civil conflict.
In 2016, the Newseum unveiled a banner with Tice’s photo in front of the museum. It was the first time that the museum had put up a banner for a captured journalist. The banner remains in front of the museum today, a symbol of the Newseum’s commitment to raising awareness of the numerous threats that face reporters across the globe.
We stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists most recent efforts to encourage the public to tweet #FreeAustinTice on a weekly basis.