The White House is using the 1,000th day of journalist Austin Tice’s captivity to renew calls on his captors to release him.
The Marine Corps veteran who went to cover the conflict in Syria for McClatchy and other news outlets, was abducted in August 2012 while reporting from a suburb of Damascus in Syria. In a statement, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. would continue to work “tirelessly” to bring Tice home to his family, including his parents, Debra and Marc.
“It is with a heavy heart that we mark American journalist Austin Tice’s 1,000th day in captivity,” Meehan said, noting the award-winning journalist and Marine Corps veteran, entered Syria in May 2012 “with a desire to report on the impact of the war on ordinary Syrians and an eagerness to help others -- values that were instilled in him by his loving family and close friends.”
She thanked the Czech government, which acts as the U.S. protecting power in Syria for its efforts.
“We strongly urge Austin’s captors to release him so that he can be safely reunited with his family,” Meehan said. “We call on all those who may have information about Austin’s whereabouts - governments and individuals - to work cooperatively with us to help bring him home.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest opened Tuesday’s daily press briefing by mentioning Tice’s captivity, adding that the White House’s thoughts were with Tice and his family “who are missing him dearly.
“The United States government, working closely with our Czech protecting power in Syria, is trying to bring him home,” Earnest said. “And that is an effort that is ongoing and has been for some time, and certainly something that we are very focused on every day, but today we're particularly mindful of this week being his 1,000th day in captivity.”
Earnest said he couldn’t say much about where the U.S. believes Tice is being held, or who is holding him, but said the U.S. is working with the Czech government to get information about him.
The United States has been in “periodic direct contact” with Syrian government officials on consular issues, including Tice’s case, Earnest said. But he said he couldn’t provide details, citing privacy and security reasons.
Neither the Syrian government nor any group has admitted holding Tice. A U.S. official last month, speaking on condition of anonymity according to the department’s protocol, said that no one had seen Tice on behalf of the U.S. government in Syria, but that there had been direct contact with Syrian government officials on the case.
His parents recently launched an awareness campaign to try to win their son’s freedom. At a news conference at the time, they said they’d been assured he was alive and not with the Islamic State militant group, but they declined to elaborate.
Families of several U.S. hostages have been critical of the administration’s response to the kidnappings, with Tice’s mother, Debra, telling McClatchy in February that it was “mindblowing” that there is no single person or agency with the sole responsibility of seeing U.S. hostages safely returned. An administration hostage review is ongoing and Tice’s father, Marc, said he hoped the White House’s statement Tuesday “means we’re getting their attention.
“I hope it indicates real commitment and seriousness to getting Austin home,” he said.