Vice Journalists Charged by Turkish Authorities of Aiding ISIS

REX USA
Istanbul

The news organization slammed the Turkish government for "trying to intimidate and censor ... coverage" after two British journalists and a local fixer were charged with "engaging in terror activity."

Vice News has found itself generating headlines of its own after three of its journalists were charged by a court in Turkey of "aiding a terrorist organization."

Correspondent Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury, both British, plus their local unnamed fixer, were reportedly taken into police custody last week in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir after covering clashes between Turkish armed forces and the youth wing of the outlawed PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule. On Monday, they were charged with "engaging in terror activity" on behalf of the Islamic State. The PKK has itself been fighting ISIS in Syria.

Vice quickly dismissed all the allegations and accused Turkey of censorship.

"Today the Turkish government has leveled baseless and alarmingly false charges of 'working on behalf of a terrorist organization' against three Vice News reporters in an attempt to intimidate and censor their coverage," said Kevin Sutcliffe, head of news programming in Europe, in a statement. "Prior to being unjustly detained, these journalists were reporting and documenting the situation in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir."

Added Sutcliffe: "Vice News condemns in the strongest possible terms the Turkish government's attempts to silence our reporters who have been providing vital coverage from the region. We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends."

On Wednesday, Vice reported that the journalists had been moved to a prison facility "more than five hours" from where their legal representation was based and from the court where they are due to appear.

"This move appears to be a blatant obstruction of the fair legal process that Turkey has repeatedly pledged to uphold," Sutcliffe said.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International, PEN International and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists have called for the detained trio's immediate release.

“It is completely proper that journalists should cover this important story,” Amnesty said. “The decision to detain the journalists was wrong, while the allegation of assisting the Islamic State is unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre.”

Amnesty International's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner added in a statement that the arrests were "yet another example of the Turkish authorities suppressing the reporting of stories that are embarrassing to them."

In recent years, Turkey has ranked among the worst countries for reporters, locking up more journalists that any other nation in 2012 and 2013.

Aug. 2, 6:14 a.m. Updated to include information about journalists being moved to new prison facilities.

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