Writers from around the world have written to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanding the immediate release of VICE News journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool, who was jailed 11 days ago.
Authors including Hanif Kureishi, Blake Morrison, Yann Martel, and Ali Smith are among those who have put their names to an open letter drafted by the organization English PEN, which expresses "extreme concern about the current crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey."
A team of three VICE News reporters was detained on Thursday August 27, while reporting in the country's southeast.
The trio — two British journalists, Philip Pendlebury and Jake Hanrahan, and Rasool, a respected and accomplished young journalist — were later charged with working with a terrorist organization.
All three appealed the charges in a hearing on September 3. While Hanrahan and Pendlebury's appeals were successful and the pair released, Rasool's was denied.
PEN's letter notes that Turkey's "routine use of counter-terrorism legislation against the media" has long been a concern for the free speech organization.
"We recognise that Turkey is facing a period of heightened tension," it says. "However at such a time it is more important than ever that both domestic and international journalists are allowed to do their vital work without intimidation, reporting on matters of global interest and concern."
An already dire situation for freedom of expression has intensified since Erdogan failed to win a majority in the June election, according to PEN.
"[Erdogan] has intensified his efforts to crush all critical coverage, but most particularly coverage of the escalating conflicts in the predominantly Kurdish southeast," Maureen Freely, president of English PEN, said. "His aim, as always, is to control the story."
Freedom House's most recent report on the freedom of press around the world said conditions for journalists in Turkey have been deteriorating for five years and took a sharp turn for the worse in 2014.
"Journalists faced unprecedented legal obstacles as the courts restricted reporting on corruption and national security issues," it said. "The authorities also continued to aggressively use the penal code, criminal defamation laws, and the antiterrorism law to crack down on journalists and media outlets."
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