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Syria Releases Swedish Journalist, Interpreter Held for One Week


Syrian authorities have released a Swedish journalist and an interpreter who were detained last week, in a deal the reporter tells VOA was brokered by Kurdish forces.

Joakim Medin, 30, told VOA's Kurdish service he was jailed for four days in northern Syria before being flown to Damascus for questioning.

He was freed late Saturday.

Medin was working with colleague Sabri Omar in the Kurdish town of Qamishli, near the Turkish border, when the pair were taken into custody at a checkpoint.

"They asked me first why I was here, who I was working for, then they wanted to know what kind of relationships that I had to Turkey and to Israel," said Medin.

On the day the pair were reportedly detained, Medin posted to social media that they were in Jazira canton, part of the Kurdish region in northern Syria.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units, known as the YPG, were involved in securing the men's freedom in exchange for a high-ranking Syrian military official the Kurds had detained in retaliation, Medin told VOA.

"That put, you know, enough pressure on the Syrian government to finally release us," said Medin.

In an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, Medin said he was not physically harmed during his detention.

A spokeswoman for Sweden's Foreign Ministry confirmed that Medin had been released, but provided no other details.

Medin's ordeal is one of few positive outcomes for journalists held in Syria, where civil war has comingled with a geographic takeover by Islamic State militants in parts of the country, leading to thousands of civilian casualties and some of the most dangerous working conditions for the media in the world.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that for the third consecutive year, Syria was the deadliest country for journalists. Seventeen journalists were killed there in 2014, including the brutal and highly publicized beheadings of freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

CPJ also notes that of the at least 12 journalists detained by the Syrian government in 2014, three died while in custody.

More than 20 media workers remain missing in the country, in some cases years after they disappeared.

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