“Austin has been held captive in Syria for 2564 days 16 hours 17 minutes 59 seconds.” The webpage Austin Tice’s family built as a plea and call-to-action to bring their son back after seven years of his kidnapping makes me aware of this. In recognition of the event that took place Aug. 14, 2012, media outlets such as The New York Times and Newseum are keeping the news active.
Austin Tice is a 38-year-old American journalist and veteran Captain of the U.S. Marine Corps. In May 2012, he went to Syria as a freelance journalist to report on the ongoing conflict in the country and how it was affecting the ordinary citizen.
Three months later, Austin was ready to go back home when he was stopped at a checkpoint in Damascus—the capital of Syria. It was not until five weeks later when his family heard from him again; however, this would be their last time.
A video titled “Austin Tice is Alive” emerged on the internet in September 2012. In this video, Austin could be seen held captive by a group of unidentified armed men. No other message was conveyed in it. Tice’s family has not heard from him ever since. They don’t know who took him. They don’t know what they want. They believe he is still alive.
To this day, Tice’s family has not given up on keeping the news of their kidnapped, beloved son alive, on finding him and bringing him back home safe.
Austinticefamily.com shows a video published in 2014 where his parents recall Austin’s childhood and later on his determination and passion for becoming an international correspondent.
“He wanted to know what was going on in the world and how to deal with it,” his father, Marc Tice, reminisces. “This conflict comes up and [with it] the frustration of not being able to know what’s really happening, and Austin thought ‘…I think I’ve got the right skill set to be able to go to Syria and report back what’s happening.’”
As a future war correspondent, this, too, is my call-to-action. It is clear to me that Austin Tice is a victim of a system which has no respect whatsoever for neither freedom of the press nor human rights.
The Syrian regime, led by dictator Bashar al-Assad, is known for kidnapping, incarcerating, torturing and killing anyone who dares expose the unfortunate lives civilians live as a consequence of his filthy politics.
Marie Colvin, Rémi Ochlik, and James Foley are names I can never get out of my head. These are a few of the so-far 153 journalists killed by this tyrant.
However, what is more concerning is the fact that a country rooted in freedom and justice has, for the most part, adopted a tolerant and docile posture toward the kidnapping of an American journalist.
For example, former President Barack Obama ended his period with Tice’s supporters gathering in the White House demanding for the administration “Not to leave missing journalist behind,” (McClatchy DC Bureau).
Tice’s family, however, shows gratitude toward Trump’s administration. Here & Now WBUR interviewed the Tice family in August 2019. Debra Tice, mother, said “We don’t have frustration with the United States government. We do have support across the administration from the White House to the State Department and we have a special presidential envoy. We still have frustration on the Syrian side because they have not engaged with us in these seven years.”
Nevertheless, the family claims they “Just can’t seem to find the right size hammer,” Fox News reported in July. “We keep reaching out to all the media outlets and saying, ‘This is your colleague and you should ask about him every chance you get.'”
For this family to be struggling to keep the news alive is extremely unsettling and alarming. I strongly believe we, as journalists, have a purpose to serve. This purpose goes beyond simply finding and stating facts.
We have to take those facts and share them in a way they reverberate. The ugly truth is that we have to make people care. Otherwise, these inhumane acts will continue to be ignored and consented.
It almost feels as if being willing to sacrifice your life to expose the reality of war in hopes of having an impact and making a change is a romantic, foolish idea. I would like to believe we, as a society, have not been dehumanized to the point where values like Austin’s are no longer acknowledged and admired.
I would like to believe there is still honor in witnessing dreadful scenarios so that others don’t have to, in finding the truth, and in contributing to a society which thinks of each and every life as sacred. I would like for others to realize we all owe it to Austin Tice to bring him back home.
Not only for Austin, but also for Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik, James Foley, and the 150 journalists who, to this day, have lost their lives in Syria while being the light and hope of those silenced by the shadows of a deaf, indifferent world.
Adriana Cisneros Emerson, Executive Editor