CPJ calls for the release of VICE News reporters, fixer, in Diyarbakir, Turkey

New York, August 28, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir to release British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury immediately. The journalists were on assignment with the U.S.-based global news channel VICE News when they, along with their fixer, were detained by police in Baglar district on Thursday, news reports said.

“We call on Diyarbakir authorities to immediately release Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury, and their fixer, and allow them to continue working in the region,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “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.”

VICE News told CPJ that Hanrahan and Pendlebury were reporting on clashes in the southeast in the past week when they were detained, along with their fixer, who has not been identified in news reports. The Turkish daily Hürriyet reported that the journalists were being held at the Diyarbakır Police General Directorate and questioned by anti-terrorism police.

Unnamed Turkish security sources said the journalists were rounded up for working in the region without government accreditation and were accused of coming in “close contact with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants,” Reuters reported. 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, CPJ research shows.

“Talking to all parties involved in a conflict is just good journalism,” CPJ’s Ognianova said. “Being ‘in close contact’ with their sources is what reporters do.”

A ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK ended in July when separatists shot dead 18 police officers and soldiers, news reports said.

In late July, Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, the TİB, blocked domestic access to pro-Kurdish and leftist websites based in Turkey and northern Iraq, according to news reports. A court said the websites were blocked for “promoting terrorist propaganda,” news reports said.