Turkish Sentencing of Wall Street Journal Reporter Horrifies News Guild

Mark Gruenberg

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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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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