Vice Media is blacking out all of its homepages and social-media channels worldwide for two hours Wednesday, aiming to turn up the pressure on Turkish authorities to release journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool.
Rasool, an Iraqi citizen, was arrested on charges of assisting a terrorist organization and imprisoned by Turkish police on Aug. 27, along with two other journalists, Phil Pendlebury and Jake Hanrahan, while the trio were on assignment for Vice News. Pendlebury and Hanrahan were released 11 days later but Rasool remains locked up.
During Vice’s digital blackout, to run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, every homepage and social account will display a picture of Rasool with background on the case and a link for users to sign a Change.org petition calling for Rasool’s release addressed to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Vice created the petition with the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The very existence of democracy relies on a free and thriving fourth estate,” Vice founder and CEO Shane Smith said in a statement. “Please help us focus attention on Rasool’s case, by sharing the hashtag on social media of #FreeRasool, and keeping pressure on the Turkish authorities to free him immediately.”
CPJ executive director Joel Simon added that Rasool’s detention “is a tremendous injustice, one that highlights the arbitrary, capricious and punitive nature of the Turkish criminal justice system. It is also a reminder of the essential role of media support staff, the fixers, stringers, translators and drivers who risk their lives to bring us the news.”
Articles on Vice’s websites will still be accessible during the blackout — only homepages will be replaced with the “#FreeRasool” message — and the company’s YouTube channels also will remain available.
When they were arrested, Rasool and the two British journalists working for Vice News were reporting on clashes between the youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish government in the mostly Kurdish southeastern region of the country.
Rasool, 25, was born in Sulaymaniyah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and he is Kurdish. He is studying international relations at Istanbul’s Fatih University and also has worked as a freelance journalist and interpreter for international news organizations, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
Vice has published a YouTube video as part of its campaign calling for Rasool’s release: