A court in southeastern Turkey has brought formal charges of "aiding" the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, against two British journalists and an Iraqi fixer working for VICE News, a judge announced Monday. VICE has condemned the charges as "baseless" and said the arrests were attempts to "intimidate and censor" the press.
Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury and Mohamed Ismail Rasoul were initially arrested Thursday for lack of proper government accreditation while reporting on clashes between security forces and youth with the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. Shortly after their detentions, it was learned that terrorism-related charges would be brought against the journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists promptly condemned the arrests. "Authorities ought to protect, not gag journalists on the job," Nina Ognianova, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, said in a statement.
Vice News condemns "baseless" terrorism charges leveled against their journalists in Turkey. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/6UsbEb3uQD
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) August 31, 2015
Amnesty International's Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, also published a statement condemning the arrest of the journalists: “It is completely proper that journalists should cover this important story. The decision to detain the journalists was wrong, while the allegation of assisting [the] Islamic State [group] is unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre.”
All three individuals will stand trial for belonging to a terrorist organization and will be kept in jail until then. A date has not yet been set for their appearance, Al Jazeera English reported.
VICE, in a statement Monday, vowed to seek the release of the journalists.
"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,” Kevin Sutcliffe, the media outlet’s head of news programming for Europe, said. "We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends."
The arrests come as Turkey's security forces have launched a crackdown on both the PKK, a Kurdish group locked in decades of war with Turkey until a cease fire in 2013, and ISIS militants. Tensions have risen since an ISIS bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc in July.