Prominent Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Center for Media Freedom, spoke to the International Press Institute (IPI) last week on the current situation in Syria, where he says an international “proxy war” is putting political interests above the safety of civilians.

The war in Syria has taken its toll on Darwish himself. In 2012, he was arrested without charge together with two other human rights defenders. Darwish was subject to severe ill-treatment and torture before finally being released in August 2015.

While in prison Darwish received numerous honours. IPI named him a World Press Freedom Hero and he was given the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and PEN’s Pinter International Writer of Courage Award. Since his release, Darwish has been a vocal campaigner against human rights violations in Syria and elsewhere.

IPI interviewed Darwish in Vienna on Sept. 20 in advance of his address to attendees of the Alfred Fried Photography Award ceremony at Austria’s parliament building.