"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Today, our family joins people around the world in reaffirming the principles of press freedom.
As UN Secretary General BAN Ki-moon has stated, "Freedom of expression...is essential for empowering individuals and building free and democratic societies. A fundamental right on its own, freedom of expression also provides the conditions for protecting and promoting all other human rights. But its exercise does not happen automatically, it requires a safe environment for dialogue, where all can speak freely and openly, without fear of reprisal... On this World Press Freedom Day, we call on Governments, societies and individuals to do their utmost to protect the safety of all journalists, offline and online. Everyone has a voice; all must be able to speak freely and in safety."
Fine Article by Heeba Dlewati of the Michigan Times (The Student Voice of the University of Michigan-Flint)
Official Press Release: 2012 George Polk Awards in Journalism (link)
Wishing Austin Could Speak to this Honor:
As you know, our son, Austin Tice, like far too many journalists, is being held captive for bringing the truth of troubled places to the attention of the world. Announcement of his receipt of this coveted award makes his absence all the more poignant. We are, of course, proud of this recognition of his remarkable writing talent. Since he is currently unavailable to acknowledge this honor, we will reluctantly presume to speak on his behalf.
We thank Long Island University for conferring the Award for War Reporting on the staff of McClatchy News, with special citations for David Enders and Austin. The people of Syria deserve to have their story told widely and well. All the contributors to the McClatchy series “Inside Syria” – Hannah Allam, Jonathan S. Landay, Roy Gutman in addition to David and Austin – accomplish this with consummate skill and professionalism.
We know Austin feels fortunate to be part of this team. Austin has been honing his writing skills since he first held a pencil, faithfully journaling and always eager to participate in journalism opportunities at school. His work for McClatchy may be his professional debut, but it is the culmination of a dream he has nurtured his entire life.
We also know Austin would express his deepest gratitude to McClatchy’s Chief of Correspondents, Mark Siebel, for his personal mentoring and to James Asher, Washington Bureau Chief, for taking a leap of faith in hiring an unknown freelancer. Austin shared with us how these men personify, and how much he respects, the culture of integrity which defines McClatchy News. We are now also deeply, personally aware of how deep that integrity runs. They and the entire McClatchy organization have our most profound gratitude for their ongoing efforts to secure Austin’s safe release from captivity in Syria.
We are immensely proud of this moment for Austin. We profoundly wish he were here to share it with us.
Six months ago, on August 14, we unknowingly began marking time with silence: 185 silent days, 27 silent Tuesdays, 6 silent months. On that day, our cherished son and beloved brother, journalist Austin Tice, was taken captive in Syria. Despite our best efforts, and the efforts of our government, many friends and journalists, as well as kind strangers, we still do not know with certainty who is holding Austin or how to secure his release. We appeal to whoever is holding Austin to treat our son well, keep him safe, and return him to us. We urge anyone with information to contact us through our website: www.austinticefamily.com.
Many things have happened in our big family while Austin has been confined. We miss him terribly during all the celebrations and feasts of the holidays; our hearts are heavy with longing for his great storytelling and contagious laugh. Even so, our family is ever mindful of and sincerely thankful for the many people who sustain us with kind thoughts and steadfast prayer.
This was to be Austin's last semester at Georgetown Law School. Rather than pursue the traditional summer internship, Austin felt compelled to travel to Syria as a journalist. Equipped with cameras, an exquisite writing talent, and an instinct for finding his way to the center of things, in May our son crossed over the Turkish border into Syria. He courageously embraced the risks of freelancing in the pursuit of truth. He wanted to both experience and understand the fundamental motivations of the Syrian people. He was committed to preserving an accurate history for the children of Syria, whose future continues to be altered day by day. His work, published by McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS, CNN, the BBC and others, fulfills that commitment. His work demonstrated keen insight and provided thoughtful analysis as he worked to objectively give an account of all sides of this most complicated story.
We continue to pray and work for Austin's safe return. Though we are dismayed by the passage of time, we are not deterred. We are amazed, humbled and deeply grateful for the support of many, many individuals and organizations, especially the global family of journalists. We trust that all of these efforts, by the will of God, will end the silence and bring our son safely home.
Our deepest thanks to the Rory Peck Trust for their support of our family, and the families of other journalists missing and in distress. Please visit their website to learn about all the activities of this wonderful organization.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) today announced the winners of 10 President's Awards for journalism excellence in 2012 for exceptional work in investigative reporting, explanatory journalism, photography and writing. The company also recognized two newspapers with special awards for online innovation.
McClatchy Washington Bureau
David Enders, Austin Tice, Roy Gutman, Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay
The bureau's coverage of Syria went up against an assortment of obstacles, from the hazards of reporting on a civil war without clear boundaries to the difficulty of confirming the most basic information. That high degree of difficulty makes this work all the more impressive on a story of vital global interest. The stories delivered by the combination of staff and freelancers chronicled the Syrian story from the front lines, delivering a rich, full portrait of what’s happening inside the country. "An outstanding example of reporting what’s really going on in a place where the truth is so obscure,' the judges said.
Our family is longing for the safe return of our cherished son and beloved brother Austin, who was taken captive while working as a journalist in Syria. So many things have happened in the more than 18 weeks he has been missing. We missed him terribly at the family gathering for the feast of Thanksgiving. We are a close-knit family, sharing so many memories and traditions. Now, as we prepare for the joyful celebration of Christmas, we desperately want our family to be whole. Our hearts are heavy to think his chair may once again be empty at our family table; we dread missing his great storytelling and contagious laugh.
Austin is the oldest of our seven children. The Tice kids are very close, and Austin’s absence is agonizing. Like children everywhere, they grew up loving, fussing, challenging and, most importantly, supporting one another. Austin is so proud to be the thoughtful mentor and protector of his sisters and brothers, encouraging them to dream big and work hard to make those dreams come true. He has set an example by never settling for less than excellence in himself.
He is an Eagle Scout – Boy Scouting’s highest rank – a diligent student and a frequent volunteer, willingly sharing his time and talent to help others. As a Marine, he earned the loyalty and respect of his men by wholly embracing the call to lead by example. Now, as a journalist, he is determined to get the story and tell it with a deep commitment to honesty and thoughtful analysis.
As parents, we encourage our children to learn about and understand other cultures; to discover and explore the things we have in common as people sharing a world that grows ever more connected. Austin has traveled widely, always eager to meet and engage the local people. He has a special affinity for the people of the Middle East; he is especially attracted to your tradition of hospitality. He deeply connects with your intense loyalty to family, faith and ideals.
A passionate and serious man, Austin has no patience for shallow and materialistic pursuits. He went to Syria to see the truth and to share the stories of its people. He wanted to experience and understand the fundamental and essential nature of their challenges.
Austin’s big heart holds a special place for children. In his professional photographs, he tried to capture how the events in Syria affected its children.
Austin has always had an interest in journalism. From the time he began reading, he wanted to know what was going on “all around.” He has faithfully kept a journal. He has written for the newspaper at every school he attended, from middle school right up through college. He was thrilled to be offered a contract to report from Syria over his summer break from Georgetown law school.
Austin is just one of the many journalists taking great risks to further knowledge and understanding of other people, places and events. There is a global consensus through treaty and convention that the work of journalists is essential and should be protected and respected.
We steadfastly work and pray for Austin’s safe return. We are sustained by our faith and by the kind thoughts and prayers that are being offered for Austin and our family. We are humbled, amazed and deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support and assistance we have received from every corner of the globe; affirmation of all the lives that have been touched by our extraordinary son.
We urge you, whoever you are: Let Austin come home for Christmas. Let us hug him, laugh and cry with him, love him in person. Let us be a whole family again.
We are relieved to hear of the return of Richard Engel and his colleagues. Certainly it deepens our longing to have Austin safely returned to our family.
Journalists serve one of the most basic and important of all freedoms, the freedom of expression and of information. Our hearts continue to go out to all those who remain in captivity and to their families.
By Claire Calzonetti, Samuel Burke & Mick Krever CNN
“I don’t have a death wish; I have a life wish,” Austin Tice wrote after his third month in Syria, working as a freelance journalist. “Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”
That was in July. A month later he was kidnapped, and is still missing today.
His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, say they are “absolutely” certain Austin is still alive. They sat down for a rare interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday to explain their son’s story, and plead for his safe return.
Thirty-one-year-old Austin Tice disappeared in mid-August while reporting outside Damascus. His writing had been featured in the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers.
In what would be the final Tweet before his capture in August, the Texas native appeared to be in good spirits. On August 11 he wrote, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by [Taylor Swift]. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”
The Tices talked almost daily with their son, then suddenly they heard nothing from him for weeks.
After an agonizing wait, a video of the journalist surfaced on YouTube in September. The 47-second video showed Tice, obviously in distress, being led up a hill by armed and masked men chanting “Allahu Akbar” – God is the greatest.
Debra Tice said she went into physical shock when she saw the video, but also realized what it meant: Austin was still alive.
Tice’s father told Amanpour that “No parents, no family should see their son, their child, their sibling, in those circumstances,” but he hopes the video might ultimately lead to contact with whomever is holding their son.
Analysts say the video looks staged and that there are reasons to believe the men in the video are not the Islamic extremists they purport to be.
The U.S. State Department believes Tice is actually being held by the Syrian regime, a charge Damascus denies.
Tice’s parents say they do not want to speculate about who is holding him – they just want their son back home.
Debra Tice described Austin, the eldest of her seven children, as a passionate man. She tried to explain, for a mother, the seemingly inexplicable: Why her son would go to one of the most violent countries on earth.
“He likes to know what's going on in the world,” she said, and he was frustrated by the lack first-hand reporting from Syria’s civil war. He told her, “‘I'm someone that can go. I can face that danger because this story is important.’”
On the chance that Austin sees the interview his parents spoke directly to him: “Austin, we love you … we’re doing everything we can to get you safely home.”
The Tice family has established a website to help find their son: http://www.austinticefamily.com/
Our thanks to RT TV's Arabic language service for conducting and broadcasting this interview, which was done during our trip to Beirut seeking support for Austin's release.
Marc: Thank you for coming here today. My name is Marc Tice, and this is my wife Debra. We are the parents of Austin Tice, a journalist who was last working in Syria and with whom we’ve had no contact since August 13. We’re here today to appeal for information about Austin. If anyone who hears this has any information about Austin and especially what we can do to bring him home, please tell us. We have a website where you can send us an email: austinticefamily.com.
We know we are not the only family who has suffered. Austin’s silence has given us some understanding of the anxieties and uncertainties that so many families in this part of the world are experiencing. We love our son. He is a fine man, a good journalist and we want everything to be well with him. We ask whoever is holding Austin to treat him well, to keep him safe, and to return him to us as soon as possible. Again, anyone who hears this and can help us find Austin, talk with him and get him back safely, please send us an email email@example.com.
Now Debi would like to say a few words:
Debi: Thank you all for coming, we really appreciate it and we count on your support. Austin is the oldest of our seven children. We are a big close family. We have all felt a terrible void in this prolonged silence. With the approaching holiday season we are even more dismayed by the empty chair at our family table. We miss Austin’s knowing smile, his big laugh and his great story telling. The energetic joy in our home has been greatly diminished by his absence. Austin loves being the big brother, he hugs and lifts his sister off the floor, and he constantly challenges his brothers to excellence. When they play games, a great and rare joy is expressed in besting Austin.
Austin is a cherished son and beloved brother. If he were your son and your brother I ask, what would you do to find him and return him to your family? Who would you most want to speak to? We are asking that anyone who can put us in touch with information about Austin - please go to our website, austinticefamily.com, and contact us. We love Austin dearly and will do anything to have him safely return to our family.
And now I’d like to speak directly to my son, in case he can hear this. My precious Austin, I love you dearly. I hold you tenderly in my heart and I pray for you constantly. Your brothers and sisters love you and think of you every minute. Be assured we will do all we can to bring you safely home.
Questions (transcribed as closely as possible)
Q: When did you last hear of him, how long was he in Syria? Were you in touch with him and where did he go in from?
Marc: The last contact we had from him was on August 13. What we want more than anything else is contact with him now and that’s really what we’re asking for and of course to bring him home. We emailed, we chatted, used social media to speak to him very frequently while he was in Syria so when we stopped hearing from him we became very concerned.
Q: Where did he enter Syria?
Debra: From Turkey
Q: So why are you here?
Debra: We are appealing to everyone and anyone for information about Austin and how we can bring him home.
Q: Who have you reached out to in Syrian government and what has been their response.
Marc: We have been in touch directly and indirectly with people in the Syrian government. They have indicated to us they don’t know where Austin is and we are 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.
Debra: Someone knows where our son is and we are beseeching that person to reach out to us and allow us to speak with him.
Q: Did you contact Turkish and Lebanese authorities?
Marc: We have a number of friends who are helping us and we have reached out to many of those authorities and will continue to do so and that is one reason why we are here, to reach out to anyone who can give us information.
Q: The Syrian authorities deny they have him, have you had any contact with any armed gang who are asking for money or any indication the Syrians are looking for him?
Debra: We really have no idea who is holding our son and that is our main purpose, to try to make contact with our son, to try to make contact and bring him home. We have no idea who is holding him.
Marc: We are contacting as best we can every group, every organization to try to get an answer to those questions.
Q: Has anyone told you they are looking for him whether political religious leaders etc?
Debra: We are profoundly grateful and humbled and amazed by the outpouring of assistance and support that we have received. There are many people who are working and looking and of course all over the world there are people praying with me.
Marc: That is correct. He has been in Syria since he entered in May and right now we have no idea exactly where he is or who he is with, and again our focus is to try to reach out and hope someone can contact us with information about what we need to do. We would like to make it clear that we will do whatever we can do to safely bring him home.
Q: Does this include paying ransom?
Marc: We have no idea what will be required and we would like to know from whoever is holding him what it is we need to do.
Debra: We believe he was in Daraya when he disappeared, and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary, whatever appears to be most beneficial in order to return our son.
Q: Did the video give you any clues?
Marc: No. We are hoping for some contact that will let us know who has him and what we need to do.
Q: Is the US Embassy or US officials involved?
Debra: We’ve had appropriate and amazing support in our search for our son and our decision to come to this area was driven by the fact that we want to expand our efforts and put ourselves in the position of being available for contacts.
Q: Has the free Syrian army contacted you? Are you staying here? Will you go to Syria?
Marc: We have not been contacted by anyone. We are here this week and if it would be productive for us to come back again, or go anywhere else for that matter; we’re willing to do that.
Q: What can journalists do?
Marc: The response from other journalists here in the region and honestly around the world has been humbling. It’s an amazing group of people. We have such an appreciation for their support and care. We would ask any journalist, by the nature of their work they speak to many people…so we would ask that they ask for information about Austin and if they receive any information please contact us.
Q: Do you think after you get your son back you will detach yourself from Syria?
Debra: Sometimes I feel that maybe I have a Middle Eastern heart so I think that my admiration for the culture and my love for the people and my enjoyment of the food is going to be a lifelong attachment.
Marc: I would say it’s impossible for an experience like this not to stay with you. We want no one to experience the kind of pain and longing and uncertainty that we and others are experiencing.
Before you leave…
Let me ask whoever is holding Austin, please treat him well, keep him safe, and return him to us as soon as you can.
November 05, 2012