Mother of US journalist missing in Syria appeals to White House

Debra Tice, the mother of missing journalist Austin Tice, addresses a press conference January 27, 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Mother of US journalist missing in Syria appeals to White House

  • A State Department spokesperson said Monday, “recovering American hostages is a top priority for this Administration and President Trump continues to successfully secure the release of American hostages”

WASHINGTON: The mother of a US journalist missing in Syria since 2012 on Monday appealed to President Donald Trump for help in securing his release, claiming that one or more senior US officials have blocked talks with the Damascus government on the matter.
Debra Tice, appearing at a news conference to speak about her son Austin Tice, said she believes the Syrian government was willing to speak with Washington since 2014 but that the US government failed to follow through.
“There is a senior US government official who is hesitating or stalling,” she said, declining to offer any specifics or indicate if it was the same person in both the Obama and Trump administrations.
The State Department said in response only that that it is in fact working to secure Tice’s release.
The photojournalist’s mother said that during one of her visits to Syria in March 2014, she got “a message” from the Syrian government that it would only consider talks with “a US government official of appropriate title” and that she had been pressing Washington on this since that time to accept the offer.
Tice said she believed Trump wanted to help secure her son’s release and urged him to break the stalemate that has prevented any negotiations on Austin Tice, a former Marine officer who has worked as a freelance photographer for the Washington Post, AFP and other news organizations.
“There is no possible way for me to understand why anyone would defy the president’s will and choose to leave our beloved son who puts his life on the line serving this country three tours as a Marine Corps officer,” she said.
She said she hoped Trump would address her son’s case in his State of the Union address set for next week.
While it remained unclear who is holding her son, Debra Tice maintained that “the Syrian government is best placed to secure his relief.”
She said she had “credible information” that her son is still alive in Syria, without elaborating.
A State Department spokesperson said Monday, “recovering American hostages is a top priority for this Administration and President Trump continues to successfully secure the release of American hostages.”
“We work tirelessly on each and every case of an American being held hostage abroad and we will continue to do so in the case of Austin Tice until he is back home with his family and loved ones,” the spokesperson said.
The Tice family is organizing a second “night out for Austin Tice” to raise funds to add to a $1 million FBI reward for information that would lead to his recovery.
 


Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

Updated 24 February 2020

Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

  • MBC Group to support young film makers with training from industry professionals

LONDON: Young Arab film makers will have the opportunity to have their work showcased at next month’s Red Sea International Film Festival as investment in Saudi cinema gathers pace.

The Red Sea International Film Festival has announced a partnership with MBC Group, which will also broadcast the event’s opening ceremony on March 12.

As part of the deal, MBC Al Amal, MBC’s corporate social responsibility arm, will hold a Shorts pitch competition.

Ten short film projects will be selected from Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, with filmmakers being given a one-day workshop to prepare for a pitching session. 

Italian director and producer Stefano Tealdi will train the candidates to strengthen their skills and give them tips for better pitches, MBC said.

“We strongly believe that this new generation of talent is key in influencing change and creating the difference to the region’s media and entertainment content landscape, which of course includes independent film and mainstream cinema,” said Peter Smith, managing director of MBC Studios.

The region’s biggest broadcaster will also host talent days on March 17 and 18 to support Saudi scriptwriters, directors and producers.

The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival takes place March 12-21 in Jeddah Old Town, under the theme “Changing the Script.” It aims to support and help grow Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry which is attracting a slew of investment from homegrown dramas shot in the Kingdom to the construction of cinemas countrywide.

Real estate broker CBRE estimates that 45 new cinemas are expected to open this year.

The boom in cinema construction coincides with a push to develop the domestic Saudi film industry.

That is being driven by both the big and small screen as video-on-demand players that include MBC, Netflix and Amazon compete to deliver content that speaks to a young Arab audience.