DIYARBAKIR, Turkey— A Turkish court charged two Vice News journalists and their assistant on Monday with “aiding a terrorist organization” and ordered them arrested pending trial. Their employer has called the charges “baseless and alarmingly false.”
Two British journalists, correspondent Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury, and their Turkey-based assistant were detained on Thursday while reporting from Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, where renewed fighting between security forces and Kurdish rebels has killed scores of people.
A court official said the court in Diyarbakir ordered the three arrested on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear which organization the journalists are accused of aiding.
While it is not uncommon for journalists to be taken into custody while reporting from Turkey’s mostly Kurdish regions, it is rare for journalists to be accused of terrorism-related charges in recent years.
Vice News, a New York-based news organization that produces documentaries, breaking news reports and investigative pieces, issued a statement criticizing the decision to arrest the journalists.
“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, Vice News’ head of news programming Europe.
“Prior to being unjustly detained, these journalists were reporting and documenting the situation” in Diyarbakir, he said.
The three were detained in Diyarbakir’s Baglar district where Kurdish youths frequently clash with security officials.
Sutcliffe called for the immediate and safe 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,” said Kevin Sutcliffe, Vice’s head of news programming Europe. “We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends.”
Renewed conflict in Turkey’s mostly ethnic Kurdish southeast has seen about 60 soldiers, police and village guards killed since July. Clashes between government security forces and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, also have killed around 90 rebels, according to state-run media. The fighting has wrecked a 2 1/2-year-old peace process.