PEN calls for immediate release of VICE News journalists detained in Turkey

British journalist Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury were reporting from south-eastern Turkey along with two VICE News colleagues when they were detained last Thursday.

The reporting team had previously covered a story about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish army in the same region in a documentary for VICE News in January.

The ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK came to an end earlier this year. The Turkish government has since targeted the group in Iraq and Turkey.

A member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is a state party to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is therefore obliged to respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that journalists are free to gather information without hindrance or threat.

At a time of heightened tension in the region, it is more important than ever that journalists are allowed to do their vital work without intimidation.

Turkey’s targeting of journalists who report on the PKK, alongside other sensitive topics, and its routine use of counter-terrorism legislation against the media are a longstanding cause of concern for PEN.

Zeynep Oral, President, PEN Turkey, said:

It is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out journalistic duties in Turkey. In a period of uncertainty, both in the country and in the region, we are in the greatest need of freedom of expression and the right to know. We ask for justice and the immediate release of journalists doing their jobs.

Ann Harrison, Programme Director, Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International, said:

For several years Turkey held the dubious distinction of being the country with the most journalists behind bars. It’s deeply disturbing to see arrests of journalists on the rise again after the numbers had begun to fall and once again calls into question the Turkish authorities’ commitment to uphold their obligation to protect freedom of expression. These journalists should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Maureen Freely, President, English PEN, said:

President Erdogan has gone to extraordinary lengths in recent years to suppress the media. Since his party failed to win a majority in the June election, he has intensified his efforts to crush all critical coverage, but most particularly coverage of the escalating conflicts in the predominantly Kurdish south-east His aim, as always, is to control the story. If these journalists are left to languish in prison, he will have had his way.

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN, said:

This is unacceptable harassment of journalists who are fulfilling an essential role reporting on events of public and international interest. The detention of VICE News’s team is part of an increasing trend in Turkey to target journalists who are investigating some of the most important and sensitive stories in the country. They must be released immediately.

Suzanne Nossel, Director, PEN American Center, said:

When the going gets rough, governments signal their insecurity by jailing journalists who are covering stories they don’t want told. Targeting reputable journalists from VICE marks a new low for Turkey. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.