VICE reporter Mohammed Rasool released on bail
Mohammed Rasool, the VICE News correspondent who was arrested by Turkish authorities with two of his colleagues late last year, has been released on bail, the news organization announced today.
“Today, VICE News is pleased to confirm its reporter, Mohammed Rasool has been released on bail having been held in a Turkish prison for 131 days,” a spokesperson for VICE News said in a statement to Poynter.
Rasool was reporting on escalating tensions between anti-government protesters and Turkish police in Southeast Turkey with VICE journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury in August when they were arrested for lack of proper accreditation. Hanrahan and Pendlebury, who are both British, were freed and deported within a few days. But Rasool, who is Iraqi, was held for more than four months.
To protest Rasool’s continued imprisonment, VICE Media sites went dark in unison in October and demanded his freedom by spreading the hashtag “FreeRasool.” The plea for his release included testimonials from Hanrahan and Pendlebury as well as VICE Media founder Shane Smith.
Press freedom advocates worried the arrests might signal a crackdown on uninhibited reporting in Turkey by foreign correspondents. Robert Mahoney, the deputy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Poynter last year that they could be “a shot across the bow” for foreign journalists seeking to report on unrest in Southeast Turkey.
Although Rasool is no longer behind bars, no bail payment has been made, according to VICE News. He is not free to leave the country and “must also report twice a week to a police station near where he lives.”
A Turkish court in the city of Diyarbakir says Rasool was detained “as a protective measure,” according to VICE News.
The arrests fit into an overall Turkish press freedom climate that has worsened of late. Turkey is now one of the biggest jailers of reporters worldwide, with 14 journalists behind bars as of December 2015. At least two newspapers in Turkey have been raided by the Turkish government in recent months by authorities eager to crack down on journalism critical of the government.