173 Members of Congress send bipartisan letter to White House urging release of journalist Austin Tice

A bipartisan letter was sent Friday morning to President Donald Trump, signed by 173 members of Congress, asking him to work urgently toward the safe return of veteran U.S. Marine Corps captain and award-winning journalist Austin Tice, who has been held in Syria for seven years. Tice, a Georgetown graduate and law student, was detained near Damascus on August 14, 2012 while covering the civil conflict there. 

“Congress remains united in our commitment to supporting any and all constructive efforts to bring Austin home to his family,” said the letter, organized by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) and Al Green (D-TX-9).

The letter was part of a campaign on Tice’s behalf, led by the National Press Club Journalism Institute, with the National Press Club, Reporters Without Borders, and McClatchy, which published Tice’s journalism, as did The Washington Post and other media organizations. The “Ask About Austin” campaign engaged thousands of public citizens in sending letters to their elected representatives, and culminated in daylong canvassing on Monday, Sept. 23, by dozens of volunteers who, together with Austin’s parents Marc and Debra Tice, informed every congressional office about the need to free him. 

“There were volunteers who had known him in so many different ways, from Boy Scouts through Georgetown undergrad and law school, through military service, as a journalist, and friends not yet met,” said Debra Tice. “They all turned out for Austin.” 

Volunteers informed congressional teams of Austin’s situation and encouraged them to sign the letter, which garnered 52 signatures in the U.S. Senate and 121 in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“I brought my 12-year-old son, Forrest, with me because I wanted him to see that real people just like him can make a difference in the world and participate in our democracy,” said National Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “I hope every person who volunteered with us this week, including the dozens of students who joined us from Walt Whitman High School and my alma mater Georgetown University, appreciates the critical role they have played in the fight to free Austin.”

“The Institute’s mission is to ensure a free press, and Austin Tice deserves to be free,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “He served democracy by bringing the Syrian conflict home through his reporting and analysis. It’s past time to bring him home.”

“Among the more than 100,000 people who have been detained or disappeared in Assad’s prisons is American journalist Austin Tice. He has now spent seven years in captivity. He is just one of a number of American citizens held in Syria, and we call upon the Syrian regime to release them all,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday. 

The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. The Institute is the nonprofit affiliate of the National Press Club, The World’s Leading Professional Organization for Journalists™, which represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. 

The National Press Club and NPC Journalism Institute’s “Ask About Austin” campaign culminated on Monday, Sept. 23, as Austin Tice’s parents, along with about 100 volunteers visited every Member of Congress to advocate for his safe and swift release. Austin Tice is the only U.S. journalist being held captive overseas. He was detained on August 14, 2012 at a checkpoint in Syria and his parents believe he’s still alive. His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, took a few minutes to welcome and thank volunteers before their day on Capitol Hill began. (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)