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Syrian Journalist Rami Jarrah Detained Without Charge In Turkey

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/02/2016 Jesselyn Cook
RAMI JARRAH © Activists News Association RAMI JARRAH

Rami Jarrah, a prominent Syrian journalist and activist who has produced some of the most striking coverage of the conflict in that country, was arrested in Turkey this week for unclear reasons, according to a statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Jarrah, who was born in Cyprus, was reportedly detained Wednesday by immigration officials in the city of Gaziantep, near the Turkish-Syrian border.

ANA Press, the citizen journalism organization that Jarrah co-produces, said on Facebook that Jarrah was being held in the city of Adana, in Turkey's south.

Jarrah has been one of the most prominent voices coming out of war-torn Syria in recent years, where foreign media have had extremely limited access.

Working under the pseudonym Alexander Page, Jarrah was one of several media activists taking great risks to distribute footage of anti-government protests when Syria's civil war erupted in early 2011.

He was arrested by Syrian authorities, jailed and tortured in prison for days after documenting police brutality at a demonstration in March 2011.

"When I was released, I became much more serious," Jarrah later wrote in a blog published on France 24. "I held a grudge."

After learning that he was being monitored by Syrian intelligence officials, Jarrah made plans in 2011 to flee the country. He and his family moved to Cairo, where he continued covering the conflict in Syria for international media outlets and through ANA Press.

He has returned to Aleppo, Syria, on multiple occasions to interview civilians whose lives have been destroyed by the fighting there. His work has focused on the suffering of besieged Syrians living in fear of airstrikes by the Syrian military and Russian jets, as well as violent attacks by the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State.

Jarrah's father, Nouri Al Jarrah, called for his son's release in a Friday post on Facebook. The prominent activist and poet noted that his son and other Syrian reporters recently met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who reportedly assured them Turkish authorities would be supportive of their journalistic work. 

Erdogan has faced criticism for curtailing the freedom of the press. Prosecutions and threats against journalists have jumped in recent years.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries for its press freedom record in 2015.

The Turkish government has not yet commented on Jarrah's detention.

In 2012, Jarrah won the prestigious International Press Freedom Award, given by the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, for his coverage from inside Syria.

Days before his latest arrest, Jarrah spoke to CBC News from Turkey about the recent Syrian peace talks and a possible cease-fire agreement. "All we have is hope, given the situation after five years," he said. "When I was there [in Aleppo]... the attacks were around 15 airstrikes a day, and that was intolerable." 

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