Biden calls on Syrian government to help secure release of journalist


US President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Syria to help secure the release of an American journalist who was abducted in Damascus a decade ago and has not been heard or seen since then.

Austin Tice, a former US marine turned freelance journalist covering the civil war, is believed to be the only American journalist currently held in Syria.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

“We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home. On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” he said.

Mr. Biden said Mr. Tice “put the truth above himself and travelled to Syria to show the world the real cost of war”.

“There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Mr. Biden said.

“That is a pledge I have made to the American people and to Austin’s parents, and it is one that I am determined to uphold,” he added.

Mr. Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organisations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on 14 Aug. 2012.

Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Mr. Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later, but there has been little news since. (Source: The Straits Times)