Updated at 2:15 ET.
Three men working for Vice News were charged by a Turkish court today (Aug. 31) with “engaging in terror activity” on behalf of the Islamic State extremist group. Writer Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury, who are UK citizens, along with an Iraqi translator, were filming in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir, where violent clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish separatists continue to escalate.
Turkey is also fighting ISIL forces along the Syrian border, in coordination with the United States.
“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,” said Kevin Sutcliffe, the company’s head of news programming in Europe. “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.”
Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and PEN International had all previously published statements calling for the immediate release of the news crew. Amnesty’s Turkey specialist Andrew Gardner said the arrests were ”yet another example of the Turkish authorities suppressing the reporting of stories that are embarrassing to them.”
This is not the first time Vice journalists have been arrested in the course of reporting: In 2014, Vice reporter Simon Ostrovsky was detained in Ukraine, and earlier this year photographer Shawn Carrié was arrested in Baltimore while on assignment.
Vice’s owner and co-founder, Shane Smith, expressed his concern about the Turkey situation on Twitter:
Vice is known for what the late media critic David Carr called a “guerrilla aesthetic,” and regularly shoots documentaries in war-torn or unstable cities. It embedded with the Islamic State to produce an exclusive report on the terrorist organization earlier this year.