Vice News journalists detained in Turkey accused of 'aiding a terrorist organisation'

It is not yet clear what terrorist group the British journalists are accused of aiding

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The Independent Online

Two Vice News journalists detained in Turkey have been charged with "aiding a terrorist organisation" while reporting on conflict in the country.

Two British journalists, reporter Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Phillip Pendlebury, a local journalist who was supporting them as a fixer, and a driver were taken into custody in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

The driver has now been released, but the two Britons and the fixer are still in custody.  A court in Diyarbakir ordered the three arrested pending trial. It has not yet been made clear which 'terrorist organisation' the journalists are accused of aiding.

The three were reporting on the fighting between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast. The fighting has involved air strikes, car bombs, and open firefights, and is over a long running conflict over the desires of various Kurdish groups to have an independent Kurdish state.

 

The court ordered the three arrested pending trial. It has not yet been made clear which 'terrorist organisation' the journalists are accused of aiding.

It is not uncommon for journalists to be detained or taken into custody while reporting in the Kurdish areas of Turkey - however, it is rare for journalists to be accused of terrorism-related crimes.

Kevin Sutcliffe, Vice News' Head of News Programming in Europe criticised the charges.

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Vice News was founded in 2013, as part of the Vice media company that was co-founded by Shane Smith

"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," he said.

"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."

"We continue to work with all relevant authorities to expedite the safe release of our three colleagues and friends."

The arrests were also criticised by groups like Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and writer's association PEN.

Free speech has been under attack in Turkey in recent years, with the government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan censoring the media, arresting journalists and blocking access to websites like Twitter and YouTube to prevent criticism of the state.

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Demonstrators gather in Ankara to protest against terrorist attacks and the PKK

The conflict between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been going on since the 1980s, but there has been renewed conflict this summer.

Around 60 soldiers, police and village guards and 90 Kurdish rebels have been killed since July, according to state media. The recent fighting has reversed the effects of a 2 and a half year peace process.

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