Why White House Correspondents' Dinner Attendees Wore #FreeAustinTice Pins
The pins are part of a larger campaign to bring back the freelance journalist who was kidnapped while reporting in Syria in July 2012.
Scores of attendees at the 2019 White House Correspondents' Dinner donned a small, yet meaningful accessory to Saturday night's event.
Red, white and black pins reading "#FreeAustinTice" were distributed at the annual dinner by the White House Correspondents' Association and its president, Olivier Knox. The pins, Knox said, were provided by Reporters Sans Frontiers and brought attention to missing journalist Austin Tice. Tice, a freelance journalist, was kidnapped when he traveled to Syria in August 2012.
Thank you @whca and President @OKnox for putting these #FreeAustinTice pins at every seat at tonight’s #WHCD. Austin is the only American journalist detained abroad, detained in Syria since 2012. Let’s bring him home! pic.twitter.com/qSLObhNWKo— Margaux Ewen (@MargauxEwen) April 28, 2019
After introducing the pins, Knox went on to read a letter penned by the journalist's parents, Mark and Debra Tice. "Please take a moment to look around this room. You are Austin's colleagues, [and] in his silence, Austin needs your voice," Knox read. "We ask that you take every opportunity to raise your voice, from the newsroom to the White House."
After reading the letter, Knox asked the night's attendees to think about Tice along with other journalists they know who have been targeted when on the job.
"Unfortunately, the list is long and getting longer," Knox said upon listing other journalists who have been targeted, including Jamal Khashoggi, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
In 2015, similar pins reading "#FreeJason" made an appearance, acknowledging journalist Jason Rezaian, who was arrested in Iran in July 2014.
The #FreeAustinTice pins also brought attention to a larger movement to bring the journalist home. Night Out for Austin is a collaboration between the National Press Club and various restaurants to raise awareness about the hostage journalist.
On May 2, diners can go to various eateries where a percentage of proceeds will go towards helping Tice.
"We eagerly look forward to the day when Austin will be here to thank you in person," Knox read from the letter.