Under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency, Turkish journalists have increasingly been badgered, intimidated, threatened, and punished. Now, however, the Turkish government is going after two foreign journalists.
Britons Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, working for Vice News, were originally detained in southeast Turkey, along with a translator and a driver, for not having proper identification. But now they’re being accused of “engaging in terror activity” and having connections to ISIS.
It’s not difficult to see why the Turkish government might not want journalists in the area. Kurdish fighters, some backed by the U.S., have been battling ISIS in Iraq for months. While Turkey opposes ISIS, it’s also terrified of emboldened Kurds pushing for an autonomous state in the region. For decades, Ankara has fought a protracted war against Kurdish guerrilla groups in southeastern Turkey. After long trying to avoid being drawn into the conflict against ISIS, Turkey, a U.S. ally, has begun to take action, but it’s fighting against both ISIS and the Kurds, a strange case where, for the Turkish government, the enemy of my enemy might still be my enemy.
And now it seems like the Vice reporters have been caught in the center of it. So far, there appears to be no hard evidence on offer connecting them to ISIS. They have denied any connection, and Vice released a statement labeling the accusations as “baseless and alarmingly false charges.” Based on what’s known right now, the Turkish arrest seem foolish and paranoid at best, and like a dangerous intrusion on journalism at worst.