January 6, 2016 - Updated on March 8, 2016

Iraqi journalist working for VICE News is freed pending trial

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes yesterday’s release of Iraqi journalist and interpreter Mohamed Ismael Rasool and urges the Turkish authorities to drop the terrorism charges that were brought against him.

One of three VICE News journalists arrested on 27 August while covering clashes between the security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey, Rasool is the last to be released. His British colleagues, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, were freed on 3 September.

RSF is relieved by the release of this experienced journalist, who spent far too long in a top security prison.

Rasool spent more than 130 days in prison for reasons that remain unclear although he was just doing his job,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “We urge the Turkish authorities to immediately abandon the unwarranted judicial proceedings still pending against him.”

Rasool is banned from leaving Turkey until the end of his trial, for which no date has so far been set, and he is subject to strict judicial control. His prolonged detention outraged the international community and gave rise to support campaigns on social networks.

Freedom of information is under attack nowadays in Turkey, with a growing crackdown on independent reporting, and an increase in cyber-censorship and arbitrary arrests or prosecutions.

Two senior journalists with Cumhuriyet, a daily newspaper that was awarded the 2015 RSF Press Freedom Prize, have been held since 26 November because they published photos and video in May supporting claims that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) delivered arms to rebels in Syria.

For this they are facing the possibility of life imprisonment on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, spying and divulging state secrets. (See RSF’s petition for their release.)

Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Read RSF’s report about freedom of information and the Turkish issue in Turkey.