In Turkey, VICE News journalist behind bars, freelance journalist detained

New York, September 8, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the ongoing detention of a VICE News journalist and the detention on Sunday of a Dutch freelance reporter.

Iraqi journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool was arrested on August 27 while reporting from Diyarbakir province along with two other VICE News journalists–British nationals Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury. The three have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization.” Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released on Thursday, but Rasool remains in prison, according to a VICE News report. He is being held in Adana Kürkçüler Prison in Adana province, news reports said.

On Sunday, Turkish authorities detained Dutch freelance reporter Frederike Geerdink in Yüksekova, a town in southeastern Turkey, local and international press reported. Ramazan Demir, the journalist’s lawyer, told CPJ today that the journalist has been released from jail and transferred to the Foreigners’ Office. Geerdink’s legal status is unclear. It is also unclear if there are any charges against her.

Geerdink was arrested in January and charged in February with “making propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). She was acquitted in April. The PKK and the KCK have been classified as terrorist groups in Turkey.

“The situation for journalists covering southeast Turkey is growing increasingly problematic,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The government must allow journalists to work freely throughout the country. A first step toward that would be to free Mohammed Ismael Rasool immediately and to allow Frederike Geerdink to continue doing her work.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, dozens of protesters in Istanbul attacked a building that hosts several news outlets–including the independent dailies Hürriyet and Radikal and Doğan News Agency–with stones and sticks, according to news reports. The reports said the attack followed a post on Twitter by Hürriyet that allegedly misquoted a statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about a deadly attack in the village of Daglica. According to the reports, Hürriyet combined in one tweet two separate lines from an interview with Erdoğan–one in which he responded to the Daglica attack, and another about his comments about the general elections. Hürriyet deleted the post soon after it went online.

In an editorial, Hürriyet condemned the attack and said it was investigating the social media post. According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, authorities launched an investigation against Hürriyet, accusing the outlet of insulting the president. The charge carries up to four years in prison.