American freelance journalist Austin Tice is reportedly being held by the Syrian government, according to his employers.
Tice, whose whereabouts have been unknown for the past two weeks, was detained near Daraya, a Damascus suburb, where activists have said forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad massacred hundreds of Syrian people last week, according to The Associated Free Press.
Eva Filipi, the Czech Ambassador to Syria, who has been overseeing US interests in the country since the US closed their embassy in February, stated that the reporter was “detained by government forces on the outskirts of Damascus, where the rebels were fighting government troops.”
Tice worked as a freelance journalist; his articles were published in the Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers, as well as other publications. Both outlets called for his immediate release, and Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli stated that:
“We’re investigating reports that Austin Tice is in the custody of Syrian authorities. If the reports are true, we urge these authorities to release him promptly, unharmed. Journalists should never be detained for doing their work, even — and especially — in difficult circumstances.”
The Miami Herald notes that the US State Department has not received a response from the Syrian government regarding Austin Tice, despite their inquiries that were made through official channels. US diplomats are “working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get more information on his welfare and whereabouts.”
Austin Tice entered Syria with out a visa in May (common for journalists attempting to cover the rebel side of the Syrian conflict). He has been traveling around the country with rebel forces and reached Damascus in late July.
Tice based himself in Daray, a city of about 200,000 people that lies southwest of Damascus, but was planning on leaving Syria to meet some friends in Lebanon either August 19 or 20. He spoke with colleagues on August 13, but did not tell them how he would be leaving the country.
Austin Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, have pleaded with Syrian authorities to release their son.