Sentencing of Wall Street Journal Reporter in Turkey for Spreading “Terrorist Propaganda” a Further Deterioration of Press Freedom

NEW YORK—The sentencing of journalist Ayla Albayrak signals a further deterioration of free expression in Turkey, PEN America said in a statement today.

On October 10, a Turkish court sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to two years and one month in prison for violating Article 7/2 of Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law. Her conviction stems from an article written in 2015, reporting on the conflict between Turkish Security Forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Silopi. The verdict was given in absentia; Albayrak is currently in New York and plans to appeal the decision. 


“The unfounded and wrongful conviction of Ayla Albayrak represents a growing trend in the Turkish government’s suppression of journalistic freedoms, whereby foreign-based reporters are also being targeted alongside their local counterparts,” noted Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs. “Critical reporting is not terrorism. Through this conviction, the Turkish government is sending a clear message that journalists should avoid covering sensitive subjects, or risk being charged under harsh anti-terrorism statutes. We call on Turkish authorities to end their crackdown on dissenting voices and to defend freedom of expression and human rights.”


Media freedom and broader freedom of expression in Turkey have deteriorated at an alarming rate since an attempted 2016 coup. Alongside a purging of academics and teachers, dozens of journalists, writers, and activists have been arrested and more than 180 news outlets have been shut down by presidential decree. Turkey now jails the most journalists in the world, with more than 150 behind bars.  Among them are Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, detained in September 2016, and Ahmet Sik, detained in December 2016, who remain incarcerated and awaiting trial. 


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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


CONTACT: Sarah Edkins Lien, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 646-779-4830