Öykü Altuntaş / Istanbul, Sep 1 () - U.S. Department of State urged Turkish authorities to uphold universal democratic values, freedom of expression, as well as access to media and information, over the decision of Turkish court to arrest the detained British journalists in southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
“Freedom of expression, including for journalists, and due process are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined, in fact, in the Turkish constitution as well as Turkey’s OSCE commitments and Turkey’s international human rights obligations. So as Turkey’s friend and NATO ally, we urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold universal democratic values, including due process, freedom of expression, as well as access to media and information” said Mark Toner, Spokesperson the U.S. Department of State, according to the press conference minute released on official website of the Department of State, on Sep 1.
The reporters, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, have been taken into custody along with their fixer — a local journalist who serves a translator and guide — and a driver, while covering the developments in the region for Vice News organisation on Aug 27. While the driver has now been released, the three other journalists were arrested by the Diyarbakır court on late August 31.
The Turkish court has accused the Vice News team to take footage without government accreditation, and charged them with "engaging in terror activity" on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
According to the statement released by U.S. based Vice News organization, Kevin Sutcliffe, VICE's Head of News Programming in Europe, condemned the detention of the journalists, defined the charges of 'working on behalf of a terrorist organization' leveled against the three reporters as "baseless and alarmingly false” and as an attempt to “intimidate and censor their coverage".
International rights groups including Amnesty International, PEN International, and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) have all condemned the decision of detainement.