Free Austin Tice

“Austin Tice’s journalism showed what it is like to be a child living in one of the most dangerous war zones in the world,” said Debra Tice, mother of journalist Austin Tice (SFS ’02), at the “Press Freedom Arrested” event held in the Intercultural Center on Wednesday.

His photographs showcase mothers walking down streets lined with crumbling, bombed houses while carrying groceries home to their children. His journalism gives us insight into the conflict of a country that shields itself from media. While journalists like Tice remain captive in Syria, we — along with the rest of the world — are all blind to the events occurring there.

Tice went missing on Aug. 13, 2012 in Syria. After spending time in Turkey preparing, Tice entered Syria on May 23 with the hopes of reaching Damascus in order to show the world how truly serious the Syrian conflict had become.

Following the death of American journalist Marie Colvin in Syria in February 2012, most outlets pulled their journalists from the country, creating a serious gap in media coverage. Many did not dare enter Syria, but Tice, a freelancer, felt compelled, a testament to his bravery, courage and determination as a journalist.

Inspired by his seven years of service as an infantry officer in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tice sought to raise awareness in the United States about the escalating Syrian conflict.

Now, 1,332 days since his capture as of Wednesday, he remains missing. As a graduate of Georgetown and as an unequivocally brave individual that merits admiration and respect from journalists and civilians alike, we as Hoyas owe it to him to try our very best to bring him home.

The Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian spent 544 days in an Iranian prison before being released and allowed to come home this past January. Rezaian, similar to Tice, put his life on the line in the pursuit of global reporting that the world needs. However, Rezaian enjoyed the support of the The Washington Post. Once taken by Iranian authorities, the newspaper used its resources to launch a tremendous campaign, advocating that Rezaian was not acting as a spy in Iran and thus should be released back to America. Journalists from The Washington Post and multiple other media outlets repeatedly pestered President Barack Obama during news conferences about his apparent complicity while Rezaian remained jailed abroad. Eventually, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon directly appealed to Iranian officials to release Rezaian and his wife, the result of which was a fortunate return home for both.

As a freelance journalist working at the time of his capture in Syria, Austin Tice was not so fortunate. The Post, for whom Austin freelanced, has tried to publicize his case, and while he has the support of many individuals and institutions across the world, Tice also needs us. Georgetown University serves as one of the top schools in the field of foreign service. In 2013, 796 Georgetown alumni were reported to be working for the State Department, a number that has only grown since then.

Influential areas of government employ many other alumni of the university every year. These connections give us immense power, and the adequate resources to launch a campaign that could potentially bring Tice home to his two parents. With the help of influential alumni, and with the power and resources of current students, we need to make enough noise to inspire those top officials in the executive branch to finally begin negotiations for Austin’s release.

Last year, many students took to social media, wearing a blindfold with the words #FreeAustinTice in order to raise awareness about Austin’s captivity.

While the social media campaign has seen immense success in raising regional awareness, it needs to spread beyond campus and reach the exact people who can help with Austin’s release in order to truly impact the state of Tice’s captivity.

On April 11, peace negotiations with Syrian officials will resume in the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. However, as there are ongoing Syrian parliamentary elections, negotiators for Syria will not arrive for several days. Ongoing talks with Syria have not been face-to-face, which renders these upcoming conversations even more crucial.

With these talks occurring during the next few weeks, now is the time to launch a renewed media campaign for Tice.

These United Nations talks present a new opportunity for Tice’s release to be negotiated, but the discussions may only occur if the proper pressure is applied to the U.S. government by supporters of Tice’s cause through social media.

Fortunately enough for Tice, the extensive network of Georgetown alumni available to students on campus provide access to the important parties necessary for these talks.

Students need to write letters, call the offices of and tweet at all of the relevant officials. People should contact the White House, the State Department and officials in the United Nations.

We need to talk to the amazing and passionate faculty here at the university, influential people such as Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile.

Beyond that, all known alumni working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and Congress should also be contacted.

These communications, in whatever form is necessary to receive enough attention, must contain the message of #FreeAustinTice; for every day he remains captive in Syria, we allow the intimidation of reporters to obscure the world’s view of the dire situation in Syria.

Beyond individual action, our student government can show their support with a senate resolution. On March 15 the Georgetown Law School Student Bar Association passed a resolution articulating their support for Tice along with reasons for their support.

This simple measure supplies us ample leverage. It could restart the conversation on action that Georgetown students can take among students, faculty and alumni to enact real, impactful change.

The Washington Post ventured above and beyond to ensure the safety of one of its own, Jason Rezaian, in recognition of his selfless dedication to journalism.

If our alumni base, especially including those working for the U.S. government and the United Nations, could be engaged in this manner, our government will see for itself how essential it is to us, to Tice’s parents and to all the people who can and will benefit from Tice’s journalism, that he comes home.

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