Marc and Debra Tice said the goal of the renewed campaign is to intensify pressure on the “Syrian entity” holding their son and on the Obama administration to win his freedom.

Share story

WASHINGTON — With blindfolds to symbolize the plight of captives, the parents of missing journalist Austin Tice on Thursday launched a campaign to raise awareness of his ordeal and to push for changes to U.S. hostage policies.

Marc and Debra Tice, with the journalist-advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, said the goal of the renewed campaign is to intensify pressure, through social media and other publicity, on the “Syrian entity” holding their son and on the Obama administration to win his freedom.

Tice disappeared near Damascus in August 2012. His parents said they’ve been assured he’s alive and not with the Islamic State group, though they declined to elaborate.

“We’ve come to the realization that in Austin’s case, we really have two entities best placed to bring him home; one is the United States government and one is the Syrian government,” Marc Tice said at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

The new campaign encourages people to post photos of themselves on social media, wearing blindfolds, with the hashtag #freeaustintice. Starting the week of Feb. 16, digital banners calling for his release will appear on more than 250 news sites in a project Reporters Without Borders called “a first in U.S. media history.”

The Tices said they spent more than three hours Monday with the government officials charged with reviewing U.S. hostage policies, which families of captives have complained are too inflexible and disjointed to be successful.

Austin Tice’s satellite phone, which he used to communicate with his editors at McClatchy and at The Washington Post and his family in Houston, last transmitted in Aug. 13, 2012. The Tices think their son was kidnapped the next day.

The only news of him since has been a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012. It shows an obviously distraught Tice, blindfolded, being led up a hillside by his captors.

The video breaks off as he’s heard speaking fractured Arabic, then saying, “Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

One issue not on the table in the hostage-policy review is paying ransom, the way several European journalists held by the Islamic State have won their freedom.

“If we pay ransom, we put targets on the back of every American,” said Doug Frantz, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs.