On Monday, Debra Tice held back tears as she reminded journalists of the time that had passed since her son, a freelance journalist published in McClatchy News, The Washington Post, AFP, CBS, and other outlets, was first detained in Syria in August of 2012: six years, one month, and four days.
RSF has been assisting and advising the Tice family since September 2012. In February 2015, around 300 US news websites participated in the #FreeAustinTice campaign, which was designed to draw the public’s attention to Austin’s plight.
Just a few days before the 2018 UN General Assembly began, the Tices decided to address the UN Correspondents Association because “the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms as fundamental human rights the freedom of expression and access to accurate information, regardless of frontiers. Even so, today, we find that journalists worldwide are in greater danger than ever before.”
The Tices said they were “very much encouraged by recent reports of direct discussions between Syrian and United States officials which included Austin’s situation.”
Debra Tice added: “We intend to relentlessly push for these discussions to continue. A genuine and collaborative effort must be put forth by both governments in order to resolve this humanitarian issue without further delay. Both governments have assured us they will do all they can to secure Austin’s safe release. We call on them – now, more than ever - to honor that commitment. Bring our son home.”
They also urged reporters in attendance, including representatives from Al Jazeera, CNN, The Guardian, and The New York Times, among others, the importance of continuing to cover Austin’s story and raise awareness among the public: “you never know who could learn about Austin in the news and may have information useful to securing his release.”
Leading up to and since the 6-year anniversary of Austin’s captivity on August 14, the Tices have been traveling regularly to Washington and New York in order to ensure their son’s release remains a top priority for the American government, UN officials, and fellow journalists. A traveling photo exhibit entitled “Austin Tice: Children of Syria” will highlight his journalistic work after it was already featured at Georgetown University and the National Press Club.
Syria has been the world’s most dangerous country for journalists for the past several years and ranks 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.