Politics & Government

Trump Administration: Effort to return captured journalist counts on U.S. reporters

Vanished: The story of U.S. journalist Austin Tice missing in Syria

McClatchy journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria in 2012. His family, friends and colleagues continue the search for him to this day. Editor's Note: This video was originally published on Aug. 12, 2014 (Jared L. Christopher/Star-Telegram)
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McClatchy journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria in 2012. His family, friends and colleagues continue the search for him to this day. Editor's Note: This video was originally published on Aug. 12, 2014 (Jared L. Christopher/Star-Telegram)

The Trump administration, known for its public feuds with the media who cover it, on Tuesday joined with major media organizations seeking to bring home missing foreign journalist Austin Tice.

Tice disappeared more than six years ago reporting on government turmoil in war-torn Syria.

Speaking at the National Press Club Tuesday, Trump’s special envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O’Brien, said the administration believes Tice is alive, and White House officials are working with journalists and news organizations seeking to bring him home.

“We have great FBI agents that have been following every lead, every clue that we can discover about Austin,” said O’Brien. “But journalists have been working their own networks and have been bringing leads and information to us, and we are grateful for that.”

O’Brien said Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been “intimately involved” in Tice’s case, and that the administration is “deeply concerned” about his well-being after years of being held captive.

“Pariah states like Iran, terrorist organizations around the world continue to take Americans hostage or unjustly detained... because they believe they can extract some sort of concession from the United States... and I can tell you that is not going to happen, “ said O’Brien.

“We are not going to be terrorized, our reporters are going to continue to go to the toughest places on earth and report,” he added.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O'Brien speaks at the National Press Club about his role working with foreign governments and U.S. reporters to return captured journalist Austin Tice, November 13, 2018.

Earlier this month Trump’s White House revoked press credentials for a CNN reporter — once again igniting the tense relationship between American media and a president who referred to it as the “enemy of the American People.”

O’Brien was joined by Tuesday by Tice’s father, Marc Tice, as well as McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman, McClatchy Company Chairman Kevin McClatchy, National Press Club President Andrea Edney and officials from the Washington Post and Reporters Without Borders.

They detailed plans for a “Night Out For Austin Tice” on May 2 to raise money for a cash reward for information leading to Tice’s safe return.

The effort involves restaurant partners who will donate a portion of their profits from customers who patronize their establishments on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The day has been designated by the United Nations to remind governments of their agreement to support and protect the right to free expression.

The FBI has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Austin Tice’s safe return. Proceeds from the “Night Out For Austin Tice” aim to add enough to double the reward to $2 million.

O’Brien is a California lawyer who served as an attorney for the U.S. Army Corps Reserves.. Earlier this year he was tapped by the Trump administration to help bring home American hostages held overseas, including journalists like Tice.

The position was created by President Barack Obama in 2015. Tice’s parents told McClatchy in August, however, that the current White House has been a more aggressive partner in working to bring their son home. They spoke personally with Trump at a dinner honoring Washington media earlier this year.

“We know it’s important to [Trump] to bring Americans safely home,” Debra Tice told McClatchy near the six year anniversary of her son’s disappearance in August.

McClatchy CEO Craig Forman speaks at the National Press Club about efforts to bring home Austin Tice, a McClatchy journalist who was captured covering government turmoil in Syria, Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

Tice said that “we’re off to a good foot” with the administration.

Austin Tice, a native of Houston, Texas, and a former Marine, worked as a freelance journalist for the Washington Post and McClatchy while reporting from Syria.

He was detained en route from Syria to Lebanon on Aug. 14, 2012. He was last sighted six weeks after he was detained, in a video that showed him being guided up a rocky hill by a group of armed men.

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She is a Corinth, Texas, native and graduate of the Bob Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University. She returns home frequently to visit family, get her fix of Fuzzy’s Tacos and cheer on the Horned Frogs.


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