Turkey: Writers call for release of VICE News journalist

Hanif Kureishi, Elif Shafak, and Ali Smith are among the writers who have joined English PEN and PEN International in a letter to President Erdoğan calling for the immediate release of VICE News journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool.

The letter, signed by more than 70 writers from around the world, expresses ‘extreme concern about the current crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey’ and specifically raises concerns regarding the treatment of the VICE News team who were detained in Turkey on 27 August while reporting in the south-east. Three members of the team were charged with ‘working on behalf of a terrorist organisation’ on 31 August. British journalist Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury have since been released and returned to the UK, but there are serious concerns about their colleague Mohammed Ismael Rasool who is still detained.

In the letter, the writers, who also include Monica Ali and Yann Martel, state:

We recognise that Turkey is facing a period of heightened tension. 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.

A member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is a state party to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is therefore obliged to respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that journalists are free to gather information without hindrance or threat.

The letter also highlights Turkey’s ‘routine use of counter-terrorism legislation against the media’ describing it as ‘a long-standing cause of concern for PEN’. The writers end by urging the president to ‘allow the media in Turkey to report fully and freely on events and to release all journalists held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression’.

PEN is also inviting members around the world to show their concern for Mohammed Ismael Rasool on social media, by writing directly to the Turkish authorities, and by sending messages of support.


Send a message of support

  • Send a message of support to Mohammed Ismael Rasool via: cat@englishpen.org or ann.harrison@pen-international.org
  • Tweet your support for Mohammed Ismael Rasool with the handle @vicenews and hashtags #FreeViceNewsStaff #FreeRasool

Write to the authorities

  • Calling on the Turkish authorities to release Mohammed Ismael Rasool immediately;
  • Urging the authorities to allow journalists to fulfil their essential role of reporting events that are in the public interest and of international concern at a time of tension in Turkey and throughout the region;
  • Reminding the authorities that Turkey has the obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which it is a state party.

Appeals to:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Sarayı
06560, Beştepe
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 525 58 31
Email: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr
Twitter: @RT_Erdogan

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
06659, Kızılay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Email: bekir.bozdag@tbmm.gov.tr; ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
Twitter: @bybekirbozdag

His Excellency Mr. Abdurrahman Bilgic
Turkish Embassy
43 Belgrave Square
United Kingdom
Fax: +44 20 73 93 00 66, +44 20 73 93 92 13
Email: embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr
Twitter: @TurkEmbLondon

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

3 Comments on “Turkey: Writers call for release of VICE News journalist”

  1. I find it interesting that you do not ask all your members to sign letters like this but only those who you consider prominent. I know you offer other modes of protest afterwards but have you considered whether a letter signed by several hundred people might be more impressive than 70 on a letter and who knows how many tweets or emails straggling in by individuals? Best wishes.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Marge. As you note, PEN uses a range of protest methods, including launching petitions that all members are invited to sign. One example is the recent open letter regarding the murder of Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa which has since been picked up by Avaaz and signed by almost 750,000 people around the world. These can indeed have a great deal of impact. However, in cases when time is of the essence we do tend to organise a more targeted letter and to approach specific writers to add their names.

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