Turkish Sentencing of Wall Street Journal Reporter Horrifies News Guild

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Turkey’s sentencing of Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak horrifies The News Guild-CWA, which sees it as part of the government’s campaign to shut down criticism, Guild President Bernie Lunzer says.

On October 10, A Turkish court sentenced Albayrak to 25 months in prison on charges that she engaged in “terrorist propaganda in support of a banned Kurdish separatist organization,” the Journal reported.

The “propaganda” was an article two years ago about the Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey and its local impact.

Albayrak joins a growing horde of tens of thousands of journalists, civil servants, teachers, academics, soldiers and civilians who have lost their jobs, been imprisoned or both since a failed coup last year against the government of Recip Tayyet Erdogan.

Erdogan, leader of the nation’s dominant Islamic-based party, claims an exiled Muslim religious leader – and a former ally -- now living in Pennsylvania, was behind the coup.

But he’s also used the coup attempt as an excuse to arrest Kurds and their allies, along with others who have dared to speak out against his dictatorial tendencies. One leading Turkish independent paper, Hurriyet, has lost dozens of staffers.

Now, Albayrak, who reports on Turkey as part of the Journal’s foreign service, is among the jailed. The News Guild, through its Independent Association of Publishers Employees local, represents the domestic staff at the Journal, though not its foreign staff, Lunzer says.

Her jailing still upsets him, and other journalistic organizations, too.

“We are horrified by the action taken against a WSJ journalist. Turkey is actively muzzling reporters and creating great fear in the journalism community. We seek her immediate release,” Lunzer e-mailed Press Associates Union News Service.

The Journal said Albayrak will appeal her sentencing. Albayrak was sentenced without being present in court. She’s currently in New York City. 

“This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report,” said Gerard Baker, the paper’s top editor. “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.”                                           

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