The National Press Club pushes forward its campaign to bring home journalist Austin Tice who has been held in Syria since 2012. The Club has been fervently supporting the campaign for his release since honoring Tice with the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award in 2015. The Aubuchon award recognizes those whose work has demonstrated the courage that lies at the heart of a free press.
Austin was reporting on the conflict in Syria when he was arrested on Aug. 14, 2012. Since then, he has been detained in secret and in silence. A Polk Award-winning journalist, Tice had covered the country’s civil war as a freelancer for McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post and CBS News.
At the time very few journalists were working in Syria because of the danger involved. He wanted to help document the events on the ground that were leading to the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The world was not getting the story of what was happening on the ground. A former Marine Captain, Tice had training and skills that helped him work in the difficult conditions found in Syria.
If Austin is allowed to be held it shows that journalism can be stopped by throwing journalists in prison. His detention serves to intimidate press from covering events in the Middle East. Austin has been detained longer than any other U.S. Journalist.
This year, August 14, marked 9 years since his abduction. To raise public awareness about Tice’s plight, the Club held a program and public unveiling of the Freedom Clock, which tracks the length of time Tice has been held in captivity. The clock digitally struck nine years at noon on Saturday, August 14, 2021, while posted outside of the Press Club entrance to encourage people to learn more about the case. A statement from Club President Lisa Nicole Matthews was also broadcast on a continuous loop.
In her remarks, Matthews reminded, “We are here today, as we are every year, to call on the U.S. government to do all it can to bring him home and to call on Austin’s fellow journalists to not forget him, keep raising his name and telling his story.”
Matthews called to ensure his safe return, “There cannot be a tenth year. Austin must come home. He must come home, so here’s what you can do to help: post about Austin on social media, sign our petition on change.org asking for the U.S. to engage with Syria to get him released.”
At the beginning of August, the Club launched a Change.org petition which calls on the Biden administration to make a diplomatic priority of Tice’s release. The online petition had nearly 75,000 signatures as of August 31.
Also during the month of August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed to bring Tice home from Syria. Tice’s parents issued a statement on his 40th birthday, Aug. 11, calling for his release, and they were interviewed for NBC Nightly News by anchor Lester Holt.
A U.S. delegation went to Syria last September to meet with government officials to begin discussions about releasing Tice.
“There is an enduring sense that we are headed toward progress and freedom for Austin Tice. And we see more reasons to hope, even today,” said Matthews.