CPJ calls for Turkey to release Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah

New York, February 19, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to immediately release Rami Jarrah, a Syrian journalist based in Turkey, who has been held since Wednesday.

Jarrah was detained by immigration officials after trying to apply for a residency permit in the border city of Gaziantep, a journalist familiar with the case told CPJ. The reasons for Jarrah’s detention are unclear, but he was questioned about his work in the press, the same journalist, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case, said.

Jarrah fled Syria with his wife and child in 2011, fearing that his role in reporting on the conflict for international outlets had put him in danger, according to The New York Times. While still in Syria, the journalist who was raised in the U.K., contributed reporting to international outlets including CNN, Al Jazeera, and NPR. After leaving Syria, he co-founded the independent citizen journalist group ANA Press which provides footage and reports to international outlets including The New York Times, Huffington Post, and others, and continued to travel to his home country to report on the conflict.

“We call on Turkish authorities to immediately release Rami Jarrah and allow him to work in Turkey without fear of obstruction,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Jarrah is known for his independent reporting on the war in Syria, which he has been covering for years at great risk. Syrian journalists like Jarrah, who have turned to Turkey for safe refuge, should be protected rather than subjected to detention and harassment.”

Jarrah was briefly held in a detention facility for foreign citizens, but was moved to an immigration facility in the southern city of Adana in the early hours of Friday morning, his lawyer, Orçun Çetinkaya, told CPJ. Authorities have not charged Jarrah with any crime, Çetinkaya said.

In the weeks before his arrest, Jarrah reported on the fallout of Russian military strikes in Syria and atrocities committed by the militant group Islamic State, and had traveled to Syria from Turkey several times, local journalists working with Jarrah told CPJ. Crossing into Syria is a challenge for journalists, some of whom say they have been forced to do so illegally because of restrictions imposed by Turkish officials, according to reports.

According to CPJ research, independent reporting such as that conducted by ANA Press is increasingly rare in Syria, as more and more journalists working inside the country are members of armed groups or are protected by such groups.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paragraph five of this text has been modified to reflect that Jarrah was moved to a new detention center on Friday morning.