Concerned by terrorism charges against jailed VICE journalists

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

CJFE is concerned about recent charges against two British journalists and a local fixer who were detained while reporting from the south-eastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir. A Turkish court has charged the journalists with “aiding a terrorist organization” and ordered their arrest pending trial.

Corresponent Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury from Vice News and their Turkish fixer and a driver were brought into police custody in the Balgar district on Thursday while covering the conflict in the city of Diyarbakir. They were reporting on clashes between Turkish security forces and the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish daily Hürriyet reported that the journalists were detained at the Diyarbakir Police General Directorate and questioned by anti-terrorism police. The lawyer representing Hanrahan, Pendlebury and their fixer has stated that the police responded to a tipoff by an anonymous caller who alledged that they were assisting the militant group Islamic State. On August 31, they were charged by the court under baseless and false accusations using Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism laws.

CPJ research shows that broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity. The PKK has been classified as a terrorist organization, and journalists seeking to cover PKK activities have often been imprisoned or obstructed. The use of these anti-state offense charges is just one way that the Turkish media is being intimidated and silenced in a bigger crackdown to suppress legitimate journalism.

CJFE urges Turkish officials to drop all charges against British journalists Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury and their Turkish fixer and ensure their immediate release in order to allow them to continue their important work. CJFE further calls on the Turkish government to allow media personnel to operate freely in the country without fear of unfounded persecution.

This letter of concern was sent to His Excellency Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada.
Cc: Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan;
The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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