Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Turkey Arrests VICE Journalists

 

A Turkish court leveled formal charges of terrorism at three VICE News journalists and their colleague yesterday.

The Iraqi journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool, and two British journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, were detained late Thursday evening and taken into custody in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. So was their driver, who was released. They’ve been accused of working for both the PKK and ISIS, prompting some foreign observers to announce that Turkey has gone “bat-[redacted] insane,” but as my fellow Turkey-watcher Erik Meyersson notes, for journalists in Turkey, especially Kurds, “this kind of Kafkaesque repression is mostly referred to as: Monday.”

The state-run Anadolu Agency has listed the evidence against them:

A notebook in which the abbreviations and English translations of the PKK/KCK [Kurdish Communities Union] terror organization’s affiliated entities was found in the hotel room that the journalists were staying in. …

Other evidence included, according to the report, footage filmed by the journalists, showing the militants of the PKK’s youth wing, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), preparing Molotov cocktails and homemade explosives.

While speaking to the prosecutor, the journalists repeated their testimonies given to the police, pleading not guilty. As a reporter, Hanrahan said, he had to know the names of the organizations, their leaders and goals to prepare a news story.

Keep an eye out for this story elsewhere. See how many times you spot the phrase, “two journalists detained.” Weird, isn’t that? I guess you don’t exist if you’ve got an Iraqi passport. (Hey, you know what that attitude is called? Yep. The real thing. Who would have imagined you’d find that, right in the pages of the enlightened Atlantic?)

The Western journalists are relatively fortunate, because the West pays attention when Western journalists are arrested.

Here’s the OSCE’s most recent table of imprisoned journalists in Turkey:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 16.29.30

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The number has actually gone down from its high-water mark a few years ago, I think.

VICE News condemns the arrests (which is far more support than any freelancer would get: That’s one reason I soured on freelancing).

“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,” [Kevin Sutcliffe, VICE’s Head of News Programming in Europe] said. “Prior to being unjustly detained, these journalists were reporting and documenting the situation in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir.

“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,” Sutcliffe added. “We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends.”

Nothing’s more demoralizing than taking a few risks to get the story and then finding out that no one cares — trust me on that — so let’s watch one of the reports they’re now in jail for bringing to you:

By the way, I too am a strong supporter of the free press and don’t think journalists should be jailed. Seems the US State Department even vaguely agrees with me about this: “We urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold universal democratic values, including due process, freedom of expression, as well as access to media and information,” Mark Toner, a spokesman for U.S. State Department, said Monday in response to the arrests. He didn’t mention the names of the men who were arrested or call for their release. Totally typical of the way State speaks whenever any human-rights awkwardness in Turkey comes up.

For those who want a deeper background briefing on this situation, I recommend Gareth Jenkins’ Erdoğan’s War: The Causes and Consequences of the Upsurge in Kurdish Violence. Also check out this very enlightening piece by my colleague Fréderike Geerdink: PKK prepared for ‘people’s war’ during ceasefire. (She too was arrested a few months ago on similar charges; they tried and acquitted her; she went right back to work.)

 

There are 11 comments.

  1. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    How does this dovetail into the election situation? I saw this article on Arutz Sheva about a week ago.

    Erdogan’s Kurdish War Gamble Fails Spectacularly

    Analysts have predicted that Turkey’s anti-Kurdish crackdown was meant to force new elections after the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) scored a huge victory in the recent elections, winning 13% of the poll and 80 seats thanks to support from non-Kurdish voters who they stole away from Erdogan.

    Interestingly, the new poll places the HDP as strengthening even further and gaining 13.5% support, despite Erdogan’s crackdown.

    AKPs main opposition, the secular CHP party, continues to strengthen as well, jumping from 25.1% in the elections to 27.8%, while the nationalist MHP party dropped ever so slightly from 16.5% to 16.3%.

    The Gezici poll was conducted earlier this week in 36 provinces, with 4,860 Turks taking part.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • September 1, 2015, at 8:58 AM PDT
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  2. Rodin Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Nothing’s more demoralizing than taking a few risks to get the story and then finding out that no one cares — trust me on that — so let’s watch one of the reports they’re now in jail for bringing to you:

    Done.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2015, at 10:52 AM PDT
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  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The BBC had an article covering it, but that is all I’ve seen about it. Reuters had three stories, by they were about a Turkish soldier killed on the border with ISIS, Gulen’s businesses getting raided with speculation that it was due to the upcoming elections, and the Turkish presidency of the G-20 being a bust.

    Thank you for the links, Claire. Do you think the journalists will be deported or are they actually serious about imprisoning these guys?

    • #3
    • September 1, 2015, at 1:17 PM PDT
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  4. Rodin Member

    Percival:Do you think the journalists will be deported or are they actually serious about imprisoning these guys?

    I’ve never been to Turkey but I have seen “Midnight Express.” If the prisons are anything like what was pictured this is going to be singularly unpleasant for them.

    • #4
    • September 1, 2015, at 2:30 PM PDT
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  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    James Gawron: How does this dovetail into the election situation?

    I’m not sure I understand the question — are you asking whether they were arrested for reasons related to the election?

    • #5
    • September 1, 2015, at 9:31 PM PDT
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  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Percival: Do you think the journalists will be deported or are they actually serious about imprisoning these guys?

    I would guess the two British journalists will be deported.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2015, at 9:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    James Gawron: How does this dovetail into the election situation?

    I’m not sure I understand the question — are you asking whether they were arrested for reasons related to the election?

    Claire,

    I think my article, and your articles, describe Erdogan putting on a full court press to force down the HDP below 10% and win complete control in the snap elections. The poll referred to in my article (in my quote too) shows that he has failed. Support for HDP has solidified and even gone up. Erdogan would be worse off in any snap election than he was the first time around. Because of this he may be desperate and crushing the press could be part of his last ditch effort to twist the snap election his way.

    I’m just guessing. What’s your more educated guess Dr. Berlinski?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • September 2, 2015, at 8:14 AM PDT
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  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    James Gawron: I’m just guessing. What’s your more educated guess Dr. Berlinski?

    I think that’s overthinking it. They don’t want the news from southeast Turkey to be reported; the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t is to lock up the journalists.

    Journalists in Turkey and especially Kurdish ones have been getting locked up for years. Like I said, it’s called “Monday.”

    • #8
    • September 2, 2015, at 9:22 AM PDT
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  9. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    James Gawron: I’m just guessing. What’s your more educated guess Dr. Berlinski?

    I think that’s overthinking it. They don’t want the news from southeast Turkey to be reported; the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t is to lock up the journalists.

    Journalists in Turkey and especially Kurdish ones have been getting locked up for years. Like I said, it’s called “Monday.”

    Claire,

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean Erdogan isn’t out to win the snap elections by this move. Perhaps the Kurds need a course in smart phone video techniques. One could launch asymmetrical news gathering guerrilla journalism that way. A quick upload to the cloud and then on to YouTube. Surely that would beat the Soviet era samzdat by portable fax machine.

    I’m such a trouble maker.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #9
    • September 2, 2015, at 9:41 AM PDT
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  10. DialMforMurder Inactive

    Arresting journalists is definitely a fashion Don’t

    • #10
    • September 2, 2015, at 3:42 PM PDT
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  11. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    Well now I think my analysis is part of an analytic trend. Whether that constitutes the definitive opinion or everybody just playing follow the leader I leave in your hands.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightens leash on Turkish media

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #11
    • September 2, 2015, at 5:24 PM PDT
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