Berivan Altan

Beats Covered:
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Berivan Altan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), was one of 10 journalists detained for alleged terrorist links in various Turkish cities in October 2022. She was detained in Ankara where she remains in Sincan prison pending trial. The reason for the mass arrest remains unclear, but lawyers representing the journalists told CPJ that all of them have denied any connection with a terrorist group.

Employees of MA, which supports the political and cultural rights of Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish citizens, have been subject to frequent prosecution as the Turkish authorities associate them with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, an armed group that has clashed with Turkey over Kurdish independence for decades. Altan was investigated, though not charged, earlier in the year on suspicion of provoking “animosity and hatred.” 

On October 25, police simultaneously raided several homes and one newsroom in the cities of Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, Mardin, Urfa, and Van as part of an investigation led by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office, arresting 10 journalists perceived as pro-Kurdish. One, Zemo Ağgöz, was released the next day on house arrest to care for her newborn baby.

The remaining detainees were questioned on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and about their journalistic activities, though they have not been officially charged, according to news reports. Prosecutors asked Altan about the agency’s reporting and her social media posts about Kurdish issues, as well as an anonymous witness testimony saying she was involved with terrorist activities, which she denied, according to documents provided to CPJ by her lawyer. She told them she has worked for news outlets since 2015, including the now-shuttered Dicle News Agency. 

MA reported that police officers manhandled and threatened the journalists, handcuffing them for up to 15 hours during the transfer to Ankara and refusing to provide a medical assessment to confirm that some of them had been injured in custody. Some were kept in solitary confinement or given insufficient water, according to MA. Emrullah Acar, an MA reporter among the detainees, told colleagues from prison that Sincan does not provide reading materials in Kurdish, and denied inmates personal letters and healthcare. 

CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in November 2022 for comment, but did not receive any reply.