From the series 'A VICE Guide to Right Now'
More than 50 international news editors have today written to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express their concerns about continued attacks on press freedom in the country. The letter comes as Turkey goes to the polls this Sunday, for the second time in five months.
VICE founder Shane Smith was among the signatories to the letter, alongside editors from the New York Times, the Agence France-Press newswire and the Washington Post, and other publications.
The situation for journalists in Turkey is perilous and there are concerns that there is a concerted effort to silence dissent in the run up to Sunday's elections. Recent months have seen a series of attacks on press freedoms, including two attacks on the office of Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, a police raid on Istanbul media group Koza-Ipek, the physical assault of Ahmet Hakan Coskun, a Turkish newspaper columnist and TV host.
Three VICE journalists – Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury, and Mohammed Ismael Rasool – were arrested in Turkey whilst reporting from the country's southeast on the 27th of August this year and charged with working for a terrorist organisation – an entirely baseless and absurd accusation. Hanrahan and Pendlebury were subsequently released on the 3rd of September, but Rasool remains incarcerated despite sustained campaigning from VICE, human rights groups and other media organisations for him to be released.
The letter calls for President Erdoğan to "use your influence to ensure that journalists, whether Turkish citizens or members of the international press, are protected and allowed to do their work without hindrance."
It also raises concerns about a "culture of impunity which serves to deprive journalists of the necessary safeguards to do their essential work and leaves them vulnerable to bullying and even physical harm. The government's reluctance, and in some instances failure, to condemn attacks on journalists independent or critical of them is an especially alarming development."