Syrians rejoice as journalists arrested in Turkey after 'guest complaint' are released

Syrians rejoice as journalists arrested in Turkey after 'guest complaint' are released
After being detained following a live talk show spat with his guest, a TV host and the station's director were released on Thursday.
3 min read
17 March, 2023
Orient TV is now based in Dubai but used to broadcast from Turkey [Getty/archive]

Two Syrian journalists arrested in Turkey earlier this week have been released after a complaint against them by a guest was rejected, in an incident that has sparked fury among Syrians.

Alaa Farhat, director of Orient TV, and presenter Ahmed Alrihawi were released by Turkish authorities after being detained on Wednesday, following a complaint by Oktay Yilmaz, a guest on the latter's show, Tafaseel ("Details").

Yilmaz was angered that Alrihawi and Orient had accused the Turkish state of crimes against the Syrian people, following reports that two Syrians were allegedly tortured and killed by Turkish border guards at the Bab Al-Hawa crossing with Syria days earlier.

The Turkish analyst was asked to leave the studio after confronting the show's host and making alleged racial slurs.

"Who are you to accuse the Turkish state of murder? You sit in our country and eat from it, then slander us?" he said.

But Yilmaz’s complaint was rejected, according to Orient, a pro-Syrian opposition media outlet based in Dubai.

It was not clear on what basis Turkish authorities rejected the complaint.

Alrihawi and Farhat were given a hero's welcome on Thursday when they returned to the studio.

"No matter how long [we were detained], 72 hours or more, we wouldn't have had a problem for two reasons," said Orient’s director Alaa Farhat.

"The first reason is because we believe in what we're doing. The second reason is because I know I'm backed by Orient. We knew our battle was a win…and we will continue, nothing will stop us from defending the Syrian [people]," he added.

Alrihawi thanked everyone who showed support and solidarity for him and his colleague, before being draped in the Syrian flag used by the opposition by his co-workers at the station.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Turkey has hosted over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, and Ankara has been directly involved in the war launching offensives against Kurdish militants and Islamic State group jihadists in northern Syria.

But anti-refugee sentiments in Turkey have been on the rise in recent years, with Syrians blamed for the country's economic troubles. Politicians have also used the refugee issue as a political tool to win votes and influence.

Earlier this week, the Turkish opposition’s candidate for the May presidential election, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, promised to send Syrian refugees back to their country within two years if he wins the race.

Thousands have already returned in recent weeks following the devastating earthquake which struck both Turkey and Syria last month.