HOUSTON (AP) — The father of American journalist Austin Tice, who went missing while working in one of Syria’s most volatile regions, said Thursday that he believed his son is alive and being detained by the Syrian government.

From his home in Houston, Marc Tice said he was working with his son’s editors at The Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers.

“We have a belief that he’s in Syrian custody, but we have not heard from the only people who would know for sure. That’s the Syrians,” he told The Associated Press in a Thursday telephone interview.

The father expressed gratitude to those working on his son’s behalf but declined to comment further on the situation. However, in a statement to The Post and McClatchy, the Tice family said, “Austin is our precious son, and we beseech the Syrian government to treat him well and return him safely to us as soon as possible.”

Austin Tice worked as a freelance journalist for both media organizations. They reported Thursday that the Czech Republic ambassador to Syria had reported that Tice was alive.

“Our sources report that he is alive and that he was detained by government forces on the outskirts of Damascus, where the rebels were fighting government troops,” Ambassador Eva Filipi was quoted as telling Czech television. The Czech embassy staff in Syria will continue to seek information about Tice, she said.

A State Department official says the U.S. is seeking information through Czech officials, who represent U.S. interests in Syria since the U.S. closed its embassy in Damascus.

The Czechs have yet to provide the U.S. with any information, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Tice recently spent time with rebel fighters in Syria and has not been heard from in nearly three weeks.

The 31-year-old former Marine was living in Washington before heading overseas, and had been attending law school at Georgetown University between deployments and his latest reporting trip, his father has said.

“We welcome any news about Austin, after three long weeks without word,” Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president for news, said in a statement. “If he is in fact being held by the Syrian government, we would expect that he is being well cared for and that he will quickly be released.”

In a statement of his own, Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said, “If the reports are true, we urge these authorities to release him promptly, unharmed.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.