A senior US government official is “hesitating or stalling” efforts within the Trump administration to have a meeting with the Syrian government that is essential to securing the safe release of American journalist Austin Tice, according to Austin’s mother Debra Tice, who addressed reporters on January 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. A senior government official similarly blocked efforts under Obama, Debra Tice said, although she did not indicate that it was the same person under both administrations. And while she said she is not certain which government official is currently stalling this process, Debra Tice addressed the individual directly, “Whoever you are: stand down, or stand up for Austin.”
“RSF fully supports the Tice family in calling on the Trump administration to engage directly with the Syrian government to secure the safe release of Austin,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “Every day that this is stalled is another day that Austin, an American veteran and journalist, remains imprisoned. This is unconscionable. The Trump administration should take immediate steps to make Austin’s return an urgent, national priority by beginning to directly engage with the Syrian government.”
During trips to Damascus in 2014 and 2015, Debra Tice met with international and national aid groups and with some Syrian government officials in attempts to secure her son’s release. In March 2014, Debra Tice said she received a message from a high-level Syrian government official informing her the official would not meet with her, but would meet with a “United States government official of appropriate title.” While she and her husband Marc Tice immediately informed the US government about this opening, neither the Obama nor the Trump administrations have made this essential engagement happen, Debra Tice told reporters.
The Tice family has been unrelenting in pushing for Austin’s release and safe return since he was abducted in August 2012, navigating a variety of avenues in order to keep public attention on Austin’s case. In September, RSF partnered with the National Press Club and other media organizations to galvanize volunteers to canvas Capitol Hill and secured signatures from 173 members of Congress on a letter to President Trump urging for Austin’s safe return. In May, RSF helped organize the first “Night Out for Austin Tice,” an initiative that successfully raised $60,000 to supplement a $1 million FBI reward for information leading to Austin’s safe return. During Monday’s news conference, Debra Tice announced a second “Night Out” will take place across the United States on April 29, 2020.
You can find more information on Austin’s case at www.AustinTiceFamily.com.
Syria ranks 174th out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.