Rights groups call on Turkey to release VICE journalists

Rights groups call on Turkey to release VICE journalists

Rights groups call on Turkey to release VICE journalists International rights organizations have called on Turkish authorities to release three people working for VICE News, including two British journalists, who have been detained in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The journalists will appear in a Turkish court on Aug. 31, facing “unsubstantiated charges of terrorism,” said a VICE News spokesperson.

“VICE News continues to work vigorously with all relevant authorities to secure the safe release of our colleagues,” the spokesperson told a VICE News report.

Leading rights organizations such as Amnesty International, PEN International, and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) have all called on Turkey to release the three immediately.

On Aug. 27, two British journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, along with their translator, have been taken into custody while reporting regional developments in Diyarbakır.

Turkish security sources have declared the journalists have been detained for filming without government accreditation and accused the team of supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

VICE News reported on its website that, along with the decision of detainment, security officers have seized the journalists’ camera equipment and searched their hotel rooms.

Amnesty International has issued a statement declaring the decision to detain the journalists was “wrong,” while the allegation of assisting ISIL was “unsubstantiated, outrageous, and bizarre.”

PEN said in a statement released on its website on Aug. 30 that “it is more important than ever that journalists are allowed to do their vital work without intimidation” at a time of heightened tension in the region.

“Turkey’s targeting of journalists who report on the PKK, alongside other sensitive topics, and its routine use of counter-terrorism legislation against the media are a longstanding cause of concern for PEN,” said the statement.

Zeynep Oral, the president of PEN Turkey, has added that it was becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to work in Turkey. 

“In a period of uncertainty, both in the country and in the region, we are in the greatest need of freedom of expression and the right to know. We ask for justice and the immediate release of journalists doing their jobs,” she said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on authorities in Diyarbakır to release the detained journalists immediately. 

“The renewed clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in the volatile southeast are of public interest to both domestic and international audiences. Authorities ought to protect, not gag journalists on the job,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.