The National Press Club in Washington is calling attention to the case of journalist Austin Tice on the ninth anniversary of his abduction during a reporting trip in Syria.Outside its building a few blocks from the White House, the club is displaying a clock Saturday showing a running tally of how long Tice has been in captivity.The National Press Club is asking people to sign a petition calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to make Tice’s release a priority.“If Austin is allowed to be held it shows that journalism can be stopped by throwing journalists in prison. His detention serves to intimidate journalists from covering events in the Middle East,” the club says. “The United States must show it is committed to protect American journalists from hostage taking and committed to bringing hostages home.”Asked about his case Wednesday, the date of Tice’s 40th birthday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration reiterates its call for Syria to release Tice and other U.S. citizens being held there.“We are committed to following all avenues and talking to anyone who can help with Austin’s release and return home,” Psaki said.  “We don’t speak about those publicly because that’s not in the interest of the outcome, but we are committed to working — to doing — using every tool in our disposal to bring Austin and all hostages held in Syria home.”Tice worked as a freelance journalist for CBS News, The Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers.  He went missing at a checkpoint west of Damascus in August 2012, and except for in a short video released weeks later, he has not been seen since.There have been some contacts between the U.S. and Syrian governments about the case, including a visit by a White House official to Damascus in 2020. The Syrian government has not publicly acknowledged knowing Tice’s whereabouts.Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, said in a statement Tuesday they are frustrated by what they called “the irresolute, on-again-off-again involvement of our government and its insufficient resolve to secure Austin’s release.”“There are many capable people working in our government who are eager to see Austin walk free; they must have President Biden’s authorization for significant and relevant diplomatic engagement with the Syrian government,” the statement said.  “As with the past nine years, we continue to plead for the American and the Syrian governments to sincerely engage in a serious dialogue focused on Austin’s secure release and safe return.”U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday that Tice “must be allowed to return home to his loved ones.”“I am personally committed to bringing home all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Blinken said.  “We believe that it is within Bashar al-Assad’s power to free Austin. We will continue to pursue all avenues to bring Austin home.”Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters 

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