Vice Media blacked out all of its roughly 100 digital channels around the world today to demand the release of Mohammed Rasool, a journalist who has been detained by Turkish authorities for two months after he was arrested on assignment for Vice News.
The blackout was effective from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, during which Web pages directed visitors to an online call to action from Vice founder and CEO Shane Smith. Visitors were also urged to sign a Change.org petition drafted with the Committee to Protect Journalists and address to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As noted in a previous post, in August, Turkish anti-terrorism police detained three Vice News journalists in Diyarbakir, a city in the southeast of the country with a large Kurdish population. It is a focal point in the long conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish nationalists seeking autonomy or even independence from Turkey.
The Vice reporters were apparently detained after filming violent clashes between Turkish police and demonstrators who support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, better known as the PKK, the biggest Kurdish militant group. Subsequently, Turkish authorities released two of the reporters, both Westerners, but Rasool -- a local journalist with Iraqi citizenship -- remains in detention.
The detentions are part of an ominous trend which has seen the Turkish government stifling press freedom with arrests of journalists on trumped-up charges of treason or abetting terrorism -- which are later dropped, but only after the journalist has been removed from the scene and thus prevented from reporting on troubling events.
In one of many incidents that occurred prior to the current case, a Dutch journalist, Frederike Geerdink, was arrested in Diyarbakir on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, but she was acquitted after the prosecutor reversed course and called for the charges to be dropped.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, stated: “The ongoing imprisonment of Mohammed Ismael Rasool is a tremendous injustice, one that highlights the arbitrary, capricious, and punitive nature of the Turkish criminal justice system.
"It is also a reminder of the essential role of media support staff, the fixers, stringers, translators and drivers who risk their lives to bring us the news. This is why we must all come together on Rasool’s behalf, challenging the Turkish government to do the right thing, which is to drop all charges against Rasool and release him immediately.”