Reporters on assignment for VICE News in southeast Turkey are scheduled to appear in court Monday to face accusations of terrorism, allegations the international media company says are unsubstantiated.
The VICE crew was reporting in the city of Diyarbakir in the country’s predominantly Kurdish region when they were arrested for lack of proper government identification, “security sources” told Reuters Friday.
Two journalists from VICE UK, British citizens Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, are among the crew. Along with a translator and one other colleague, they were reporting on escalating tensions between police and the youth wing of a pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
No formal charges have been filed against the journalists yet, according to a spokesman for VICE News.
Since news of the journalists’ arrests spread Friday, several advocacy groups have called for their immediate release. In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Turkish authorities for imprisoning the crew, citing newsworthy reporting of interest to domestic and international audiences.
The CPJ dispatch, which cites the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, says the journalists were questioned by anti-terrorism police at the Diyarbakır Police General Directorate.
Turkish authorities have in the last decade accused several journalists of associating with Kurdish organizations and imprisoned many of them on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. As of 2014, seven journalists remained jailed in Turkey, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
VICE is well-known for publishing reports from correspondents who travel to international hotspots and other elusive locales. In recent years, VICE journalists have reported from inside the Islamic State, Afghanistan and Liberia. Shane Smith, CEO of VICE Media, has himself ventured to North Korea and Liberia.
Word of the charges facing the VICE crew comes as the fate of another Western journalist based in the Middle East hangs in the balance. Jason Rezaian, Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post, awaits a verdict from Iran’s Revolutionary Court on charges of espionage. Those accusations have been roundly dismissed by American journalists and journalism advocates; Post Executive Editor Martin Baron called the circumstances of Rezaian’s trial “Kafkaesque.”
This post has been updated to include information from VICE News.