The jail sentence that a Turkish court has passed on Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak over her coverage of clashes between Kurdish separatists and Turkish security forces is disproportionate and intended to limit the activities of foreign journalists in Turkey, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says.
The Wall Street Journal announced on Tuesday that Albayrak, who has Turkish and Finnish dual nationality, has been sentenced in absentia to two years and one month in prison on a “terrorist propaganda” charge. She was in New York when the sentence was passed and plans to appeal.
She was convicted in connection with an August 2015 article for which she went to Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, to cover fighting between government forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We condemn this arbitrary and disproportionate sentence targeting a journalist whose only crime was to go into the field and report the facts, and thereby do her job,” RSF said. “We think the court’s decision is designed to discourage foreign journalists thinking of going to Turkey, and to restrict their activities there.”
Albayrak has been working for the Wall Street Journal’s Istanbul bureau since 2010, covering Turkish politics, the situation of Syrian refugees, and Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Her conviction comes amid steadily mounting diplomatic tension between Turkey and the United States, in which both have just suspended issuing visas to the other country’s citizens.
Turkey’s already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison – a world record.
Foreign journalists are no longer spared. Several dozen have been expelled in the past two years and some are still being held. They include Deniz Yücel, a journalist with German and Turkish dual nationality.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
(c) 2017 Reporters Without Boarders