Syria must release U.S. journalist believed in state custody

New York, August 30, 2012–Syrian authorities must immediately release U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice believed to be in government custody, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

“There is a strong indication that the Syrian government is holding Austin Tice,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Damascus should acknowledge his captivity and release Tice immediately.  All sides fighting in Syria must ensure the safety of media personnel and respect their internationally recognized status as civilians.”

In an interview with Czech television on Tuesday, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Syria who also represents U.S. interests there, said that according to embassy sources, Tice “is alive and that he was detained by government forces in the outskirts of Damascus, where the rebels were fighting government troops.” The freelance photojournalist who contributed to The Washington Post, McClatchy, Al-Jazeera English and several other news outlets was unaccounted for in mid-August. Two other journalists working for the U.S. government-funded Al-Hurra television broadcaster went missing on August 20. At least 19 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, making Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research