Fatih Polat

Free press advocate

In Turkey, civil society and human rights are under great pressure following the failed coup attempt of July 2016. This doesn’t stop Fatih Polat, editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Evrensel, from aspiring to make ‘real journalism’. Polat: ‘The fact that I’m still outside gives me an extra responsibility.’

‘The pressures have increased,’ Fatih Polat says about the situation for journalists in present-day Turkey. After the failed coup attempt in July 2016, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a state of emergency which has turned into a instrument of enormous oppression. Tens of thousands of civil servants, journalists, academics, judges and others were fired or thrown in jail.

Extra responsibility
Fatih Polat – who is a special guests at the Movies that Matter Festival 2018 – is one of the main protagonists in the documentary Turkey on the Edge, a personal account from inside the Turkish pro-democracy movement. The film follows journalists, academics and others who face increasing danger as they are targeted by the Erdogan regime. For Polat’s socialist daily newspaper Evrensel, it becomes increasingly hard to operate. ‘Nowadays I split most days between the courtroom and the newspaper,’ he says in Turkey on the Edge. ‘There are many colleagues in prison, among them people I’ve worked alongside for many years. The fact that I’m still outside gives me an extra responsibility.’

Polat has been targeted multiple times by the authorities for his journalistic work. In July 2017, for example, he was sued for ‘insulting the president’ over a column about alleged business dealings of the president’s family. ‘The charge is “insulting the president”,’ Polat wrote on his Twitter account at the time. ‘But there is no insult, there is only journalism.’ The column had to be removed. In November 2017, Polat and four other journalists were charged for publishing articles which criticized the authorities concerning a suicide attack in Ankara. The case was dismissed in January 2018.

Although dozens of newspapers and magazines were closed down in the last two years, Evrensel still operates. ‘Of course we are worried about the newspaper being shut down,’ Polat says. ‘There are several threats, but it’s the result of making real journalism in Turkey. We will not get rid of the truth. Despite the threats I’m still making journalism and looking at the world laughing. That is important.’