ISTANBUL—A Turkish court sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to over two years in prison on Oct. 10, after she was found guilty of engaging in terrorist propaganda in support of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“The conviction of Ms. Albayrak, who is currently in New York, highlights the increasing targeting of journalists in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has gained attention for deteriorating media freedoms,” read a part of a Wall Street Journal report on Albayrak’s 25-month sentence.
Albayrak plans to appeal the decision. “Given the current climate in Turkey, this appalling decision shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did,” she said.
“This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report,” said Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker. “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.”
Legal action against Albayrak began after the Wall Street Journal published her article, “Urban Warfare Escalates in Turkey’s Kurdish-Majority Southeast,” in August. The article and the video that accompanied the piece reported on the conflict in Silopi between Turkish security forces and the PKK, and included interviews with the local mayor and residents, a Turkish government official, and a person who Turkish authorities say has ties with the PKK.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the conviction and called on Turkish authorities to stop their relentless crackdown on the press. “We call on Turkish authorities not to contest Ayla Albayrak’s appeal and to drop all charges against her,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Dozens of journalists are imprisoned for their work in Turkey, and this conviction is a signal that conditions for the press are continuing to deteriorate. Rather than dispensing justice, Turkey’s judicial system has become an instrument of persecution.”
CPJ also pointed out that with at least 81 journalists behind bars, Turkey was the leading jailer of journalists as of Dec. 1 of last year, when the committee last conducted its annual global census.
“Turkey’s crackdown this year has snared several journalists working for international publications,” the statement went on. Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel was jailed on terrorism charges in retaliation for his articles critical of Turkish authorities, and he is still in custody, while French journalists Loup Bureau and Mathias Depardon were detained while reporting in Turkey, but later released.