WASHINGTON — The parents of missing American journalist Austin Tice appealed for information about their son Monday at a news conference in Beirut.
Marc and Debra Tice said they’d had no contact with their eldest son since Aug. 13. His last known location was Daraya, Syria, near Damascus, they said.
“Is he well?” Marc Tice asked. “How can we contact him? And how can we return him to our family? If anyone who hears this has any information about Austin, especially what we can do to bring him home, please contact us.”
Austin Tice was reporting on Syria’s civil war when he disappeared this summer. The 31-year-old freelance journalist from Houston reported from the front lines of the conflict for McClatchy, The Washington Post, CBS News, Al Jazeera English and Agence France-Presse. He’s a Georgetown University Law Center student and Marine Corps veteran.
Marc Tice said the family had been in touch “indirectly and directly” with Syrian government officials, but “they have indicated to us they don’t know where Austin is.”
He said the family was “reaching out to everyone that we can get in touch with to try to get their help in determining where Austin is and what we need to do bring him home.”
After Tice’s disappearance, information from official and unofficial sources indicated that Syrian authorities had captured him. The Syrian government denied any involvement or knowledge of his whereabouts, however.
On Sept. 8, Debra Tice sent a Twitter message to Syria Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, asking him to have compassion on her family “and release our son, Austin Tice, to us.”
Makdissi replied: “If he is to be found inside Sy. I am def sure ur gov will B notified. R u sure he is inside Syria? Reports he entered illegally.”
A YouTube video posted in late September appears to show Austin Tice in captivity. In the 47-second clip, masked men march him up a hill, chanting, “God is great.” Forced to his knees, a blindfolded and distraught Tice tries to recite an Islamic prayer before gasping, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”
His mother said Monday that his absence had left a “terrible void” in the lives of his parents and six younger siblings.
“With the approaching holiday season, we are even more dismayed by the empty chair at our family table,” Debra Tice said. “We miss Austin’s knowing smile, his big laugh and his great storytelling. The energetic joy in our home has been greatly diminished.”
She added, “Austin is a cherished son and beloved brother. If he were your son or brother, I ask, what would you do to find him and return him to your family?"
“We ask whoever is holding Austin to please treat him well, keep him safe and return him to us as soon as you can,” Marc Tice said.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lindsaywise