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Syrian media campaigners detained at Turkish airport

The two Syrian media figures were held at Ataturk airport in Istanbul [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2016

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Mazen Darwish, a Syrian media campaigner, became the latest activist detained by Turkish authorities. It comes after Khaloud Waleed's arrest at Istanbul airport earlier in the week.

A leading Syrian human rights campaigner was prevented from leaving Turkey last night, in the latest example of harassment against Syrian activists by Turkish authorities.

Mazan Darwish was stopped at Istanbul's Ataturk airport by security as he tried to board a flight to Qatar this weekend.

He was due to take part in the International Press Institute's World Congress in Doha on Saturday night, but was accused of forging his Qatari visa while transiting through Istanbul by airport security.

Darwish was also reportedly hit on the leg by airport staff beofe being sent on an early morning flight back to Geneva.

"We are disturbed by Turkish authorities' detention of Mazen Darwish, who held a valid Qatari visa to speak at IPI's World Congress in Doha, and by the alleged assault he suffered," IPI Executive Board Chair John Yearwood said.

"Such treatment is completely unwarranted and unacceptable, and we demand that Turkish authorities explain their actions."

The journalist told the media group that he believes he was held due to a critical article he wrote about Ankara's handling of the murder case of Syrian journalist Naji Jerf.

The Raqqa is Being Slaughtered silently media activist was shot dead on a busy Gaziantep street by a supected Islamic State group militant with mystery shrouding the case.

Darwish's wife Yara Badr, who co-runs the Syria Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression with him, spoke on his behalf at the congress.

Darwish was released from Syrian regime prison in August last year after three years in detention.

He was set free after high-profile international campaiging, which saw him awarded Unesco's annual press freedom prize in 2015 whike Amnesty International frequently called for his release.

On 15 March, Turkish authorities reportedly detained Syrian journalist Kholoud Waleed at Istanbul airport as she attempted to board London-bound flight.

A co-founder of Syrian opposition newspaper Enab Baladi, she was told she her Turkish residency was expired despite the media activist having a receipt for its renewal.

Last month, Syrian journalist Rami Jarrar was also detained by Turkish authorities for several days.

The arrests come as Turkish authorities clampdown on media in the country, with the US calling for Ankara to respect press freedoms earlier in the week.

Authorities took control of one of Turkey's largest newspapers this month, Zaman, which was known for its critical coverage of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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