Turkey’s recent detention of two British VICE News journalists and their fixer on terrorism accusations was troubling, but perhaps the most disquieting development was prosecutors’ assertion that the use of an encryption system provided proof that the three were “engaging in terrorist activity” and “aiding a terrorist organisation”.

In a recent article, Al Jazeera quoted a Turkish official who said that one of the main pieces of evidence against the two journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, and local fixer Mohammed Ismael Rasool “seems to be that the fixer uses a complex encryption system on his personal computer that a lot of [Islamic State group] militants also utilise for strategic communications".

The VICE journalists and their fixer were arrested on Aug. 27, 2015 in front of their hotel in Diyarbakır, where they had been reporting on clashes between Turkish security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK).

Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released and deported. However, Rasool, who has worked for international news organisations such the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera, remains behind bars.

If the use of encryption is confirmed to be one of the reasons for their arrest, it would mean that Turkish authorities are willing to criminalise the use of tools that are essential to the free practice of journalism.

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