A Wall Street Journal reporter accused of writing “terrorist propaganda” was sentenced to over two years in prison in Turkey for an article she wrote two years ago about Turkey’s war with Kurdish separatists.
Ayla Albayrak, a dual citizen of Turkey and Finland, was in New York when the sentence was pronounced. Her article referenced the war between Turkey and the Kurds in Silopi, Turkey; she wrote:
Each day, Turkish special forces play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with armed Kurdish youths, firing tear gas and live rounds in a bid to reassert control of several neighborhoods. Before nightfall, groups of Silopi residents flee the most violent central neighborhoods, taking refuge in relatives’ homes to avoid the crossfire, according to the mayor and residents.
Albayrak also quoted Silopi Mayor Seyfettin Aydemir saying of Turkish president Recip Erdogan, “He is taking revenge on us Kurds. But we must soon get back to the negotiation table, because things are getting out of control. The hatred among the youth is growing as time goes by.”
Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of the Journal, stated, “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded. This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report.”
Albayrak responded to the verdict by saying,“Given the current climate in Turkey, this appalling decision shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did,” adding that the verdict “shows yet again, that the international media is not immune to the ongoing press crackdown in Turkey.” Albayrak plans to appeal the decision, according to the Journal.
In the wake of the failed coup in 2016, Turkey has been accused of keeping many journalists in prison, a charge Turkish officials vehemently deny, asserting that many of those imprisoned should not be referred to as members of the press but rather criminal suspects or spies working for other countries.
Turkey and the United States have been at odds recently; on Sunday the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced that it was suspending the issuing of nonimmigrant visas at its missions in Turkey. That action followed Turkey’s arrest of a U.S. consulate employee, Metin Topuz, on espionage charges.
Turkey responded with a similar visa suspension; on Tuesday Erdogan said that “the offender in this problem is the United States of America itself,” according to the Anadolu news agency.
Nina Ognianova, the CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, stated that Turkey was the world’s top jailer of journalists, adding, “The conviction of Ayla in Turkey is a very worrying sign and an escalation of the crackdown on the press. We call on the Turkish authorities to overturn this decision immediately."