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    3 Sep 2015

    Journalists arrested on terrorism charges in Turkey for using crypto software

    Part of much wider trend to demonise encryption, perhaps with a view to banning it.

    Three journalists working with Vice News have been charged with "engaging in terrorist activity" on behalf of ISIL (ISIS), because one of them used encryption software. A Turkish official told Al Jazeera: "The main issue seems to be that the [journalists'] fixer uses a complex encryption system on his personal computer that a lot of ISIL militants also utilise for strategic communications." There are no details as to what that "complex encryption system" might be, but it seems likely that it is nothing more than the PGP email encryption software, or perhaps the The Onion Router (TOR) system, both of which are very widely used, and not just by ISIL.
    The correspondent and cameraman for Vice News, who are both British, and their fixer, who is Iraqi but Turkey-based, were arrested last Thursday in Diyarbakir, located in south-eastern Turkey, and an important centre for the country's Kurdish population. According to The Guardian, the Vice News journalists were covering "recent clashes between Turkish security forces and the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)."

    Exposing those tensions would not have endeared them to the Turkish authorities, and the real reason for their arrest may be to stop them reporting on this sensitive issue. What is particularly troubling, however, is that it seems the mere use of encryption software is enough for three journalists to be arrested on terrorism charges.
    As Ars has reported, this demonisation of crypto is not confined to foreign lands. The UK prime minister, David Cameron, has said he does not intend to "leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other," whatever that means in practice. Similarly, law enforcement officials on both sides of the Atlantic have warned of things "going dark" because of the growing use of encryption by criminals. The latest move by the Turkish authorities is simply one more attempt to paint crypto as inherently suspicious, perhaps with a view to making its use explicitly illegal at some point.
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