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Monday, April 18, 2016


STILL MISSING SINCE 2012.  Austin Tice, 33, a freelance journalist, was taken hostage in Damascus, Syria while on assignment by unknown kidnappers.
GUEST BLOG—By John M. Donnelly, National Press Club—Another captured American journalist has been freed.  National Press Club in Washington DC lauded Syria’s release last week (April 8) of Kevin Patrick Dawes, an American citizen who had been detained since October 2012, and they expressed the hope that Austin Tice, a U.S. journalist who has been missing in Syria for even longer, will soon be set free.

Tice, a freelance reporter, was working in Syria for the Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers, among others, when he disappeared more than three and a half years ago. He is believed to be alive and in detention, but his captors are unknown.

The Press Club conferred on Tice last year the 2015 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, given to people who exemplify journalism’s struggle to tell the truth even in dire circumstances.

“Tice is now the only American journalist known to be in captivity, and he has been missing for far too long,” said NPC President Thomas Burr. “We hope Jim O’Brien, the first special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, can succeed in bringing Tice home to his family at the earliest possible date.”

Syrian authorities released American prisoner Kevin Patrick Dawes last week, reported via NBC News. Dawes, 33, went missing in the fall of 2012 after going into Syria from Turkey.

FREED: Kevin Dawes
The details of Dawe’s release have not yet been publicly specified. It’s still uncertain whether the negotiations were done via third party or the Syrian government. However, Secretary of State John Kerry was “personally involved in winning Dawes’s release,” reported The Washington Post.

Prior to his trek to Syria, Dawes unsuccessfully tried raising money through a Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2012. The respective campaign, titled Aerial Battlefield Photojournalism, was an aerial camera drone project Dawes wanted backing for “to film the killing fields of Syria to provide a unique view of the war there,” according to the Kickstarter page. The goal of the project was $28,000. However, Dawes was only able to get $30 pledged.

For a year after her journalist son went missing in Syria in 2012, Debra Tice kept calling his cell phone. It would ring and ring. Nothing. She would send Austin Tice messages on Facebook. No response.

"It's excruciating," Tice's father, Marc, told CNN. The void of not knowing what happened to their son or who has him is a "constant presence."

All they know is the then 33-year old freelance journalist (McLatchy Newspapers and the Washington Post) was abducted in a Damascus suburb.

Freelance journalist Austin Tice, a former U.S. Marine Captain, went missing while on a journalistic assignment in Syria in 2012.

The following is a press statement from Secretary of State John Kerry regarding last summer’s appointment of the nation’s first Envoy for Hostage Affairs:

On behalf of the State Department, I welcome the appointment of Jim O’Brien as the first Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Jim is exactly the right person for a job that demands a high level of diplomatic experience and the ability to analyze and find effective remedies to complex problems.

Jim O'Brien
The creation of this new post stems from the U.S. government’s comprehensive hostage policy review which was completed earlier this summer. That review recognized the need for fully coordinated action across U.S. agencies in responding to hostage situations and to the military, diplomatic, legal, and humanitarian issues that such situations generate.

In his new position, Jim will be focused on one overriding goal: using diplomacy to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage overseas. To that end, he will be in close contact with the families of American hostages, meet with foreign leaders in support of our hostage recovery efforts, advise on options to enhance those efforts, participate in strategy meetings with other senior U.S. policymakers, and represent the United States internationally on hostage-related issues. The new Special Presidential Envoy will work closely with the interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell that was also created as a result of the hostage policy review.

Jim O’Brien is currently Vice Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy and business advisory firm. Previously, he served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Balkans during the late 1990s, helping to chart a path out of the military and political strife that divided the region. He also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning and as a senior adviser to UN Ambassador and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In those capacities, he helped to formulate the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia; and guided U.S. support for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which helped bring to justice persons responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Jim O’Brien is a person of proven diplomatic skill with a strong commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to justice. I congratulate him on his new assignment and I have made clear to him that he can count on my full support – and that of the entire State Department – in fulfilling his vital mission.

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