VICE held a digital blackout on the morning of Oct. 21 for two hours in order to pressure the Turkish government to release detained VICE News journalist Mohammed Rasool (video below).
Rasool has been in a high-security prison in Turkey for nearly two months, according to VICE.
Rasool and two other British VICE News journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, had been filming clashes between law enforcement and young members of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) in the city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, according to The Guardian. The three journalists were arrested on Aug. 27.
Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released on Sept. 3 and deported back to the U.K., but Rasool remains imprisoned. The Turkish government alleges that he was assisting terror groups, and he is currently being held pending a pre-trial investigation.
Members of VICE blasted the allegations, with co-founder and CEO Shane Smith calling on the public to put pressure on Turkish authorities to release Rasool.
“The very existence of democracy relies on a free and thriving fourth estate,” Smith said in a video statement. Smith urged the public to help focus attention on Rasool's case by sharing the hashtag #FreeRasool.
The blackout ran from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on VICE's website, as well as its topic-based sites like Broadly and Munchies. Viewers who visited any VICE-run site during these hours were presented with a blacked-out screen and a release petition for Rasool, addressed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The blackout period was chosen to coincide with VICE's highest traffic period in order to get the message out to a large audience.
VICE created the petition with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). CPJ executive director Joel Simon described Rasool's detention as a "tremendous injustice" that “highlights the arbitrary, capricious, and punitive nature of the Turkish criminal justice system,” The Guardian reports.
The U.S. State Department has also weighed in on the matter, and called upon Turkey to uphold due process for Rasool in a statement made on Oct. 17, according to VICE.
Here is the change.org petition for Rasool's case.