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Op-ed

President Biden, where is the action for Austin Tice? | GUEST COMMENTARY

FILE - Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012, speak during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon in 2018. President Joe Biden met with the Tices in May and on Wednesday, issued a statement calling on Syria to help bring their son home. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

Ten years.

An American, a veteran U.S. Marine, a man who became a foreign correspondent so that his fellow Americans would know what was happening in Syria, has been missing for 10 years.

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President Joe Biden knows about Austin Tice. So did President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama. Some of them engaged; none of them with apparent results.

Mr. Trump’s team said it had evidence Mr. Tice, who worked as a freelance correspondent for my company, McClatchy before his capture, was alive and sent its hostage envoy to Damascus to gather information about him.

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Mr. Biden’s team — after some prodding — agreed to allow Austin’s parents, Debra and Marc Tice, to meet with him in early May.

In that meeting, the Tices say the president asked his team to get a meeting with the Syrians and find out what they want and to work with them to get Austin released. Three months later, little has changed.

On Wednesday, President Biden issued a statement calling on Syria to bring an end to Austin’s captivity and to work with his administration to bring him home.

“There is no higher priority in my Administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” the statement reads. “We must name them, keep them in our hearts and minds, and make recovery and return a priority.”

Statements like these are encouraging, but words do not amount to action. We need to see actions and results.

If the U.S. government has evidence of Austin’s whereabouts and circumstances, it is beyond time to pull out all the stops to reach a solution. That starts with direct engagement with the Syrian government — not working through intermediaries or back channels.

For a decade, Austin Tice has been missing from family gatherings, from holidays and celebrations — from moments big and small. As a father and grandfather, my heart breaks for Debra and Marc Tice. They deserve better from their president, from this government.

To my colleagues in the press, do not let Austin Tice be forgotten. Keep asking tough questions and demanding answers until the administration takes action and makes his release a priority.

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And to President Biden: Step up and insist your team find a pathway to Austin’s release. BRING AUSTIN TICE HOME!

Tony Hunter (Twitter: @tonywhunter) is chairman and CEO of McClatchy, which publishes local news in 30 communities across the U.S.


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