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UJF: Ayla Albayrak’s conviction by Turkish court must be overturned

A Turkish court has sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, a dual citizen of Finland and Turkey, to jail for two years and one month for working in the Kurdish region of Turkey.

According to the verdict, Albayrak is guilty of having produced terrorist propaganda in an article she wrote that was published by the WSJ in August 2015, Urban Warfare Escalates in Turkey’s Kurdish-Majority Southeast. She plans to appeal the sentence.

“This essentially reflects Turkey’s situation concerning press freedom,” said UJF president Hanne Aho. “In Turkey, independent journalism is a crime and can lead to imprisonment. The international news media is not safe either. The verdict is seen as a further sign of the emasculation of press freedoms.”

According to the European Federation of Journalists, there are 160 journalists imprisoned in the country. More than 80 media organs were shut down following the attempted coup in July 2016.

Albayrak is reportedly the first foreign journalist to be sentenced in Turkey. She was convicted in absentia, and according to her employer is currently in New York. Deniz Yücel, the German-Turkish correspondent for Die Welt, has also been prosecuted in Turkey. He is in custody awaiting sentencing.

“The Turkish authorities must immediately overturn convictions of this sort,” said Hanne Aho. “Charges should never have been brought and should not have led to a guilty verdict.”

Aho has called on the Finnish Foreign Ministry to take active steps to get the verdict overturned and to bring pressure on Turkey to adhere to press freedom and human rights.

The UJF is part of the European Federation of Journalists’ campaign #JournalismIsNotaCrime to defend journalists’ rights in Turkey.