Turkey, Corporate News, Anadolu Agency's 100th year

Anadolu Agency celebrates century of success

Journey conceived at a train station a century ago, Turkish wire Anadolu Agency’s news operations have traveled far and wide

Firdevs Bulut   | 05.04.2020
Anadolu Agency celebrates century of success

ANKARA 

Exactly 100 years ago, a discussion between two Turkish intellectuals Yunus Nadi (Abalioglu) and Halide Edip (Adivar) at a train station conceived the idea of setting up of a Turkish global wire Anadolu Agency.

Setup on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the agency begun its operation on April 6, 1920, to communicate the voice of Anatolia to the world. Since then it has successfully and without any interruption continued its journey to pursue professional journalism, with a high degree of ethics and objectivity.

Before the Anadolu Agency took birth, Turkey-Havas Reuter agency had started operation under the Ottoman rule.

Following the defeat of the Empire in World War I and the occupation of Istanbul by the Allied Forces following the signing of the Armistice of Mudros Treaty, Damat Ferid Pasha had agreed to set up the Turkey-Havas Reuter agency, which gave concessions to foreign journalists. The stories that they used to disseminate, were inimical to Turkey’s interests. Mustafa Kemal was disturbed because their stories were based on fanciful fabrications.

Realizing the importance of media, Mustafa Kemal had started thinking about the possibility of setting up a news agency, which would convey the voice of the War of Independence within the country and around the world.

After the Allied Forces invaded Istanbul on March 16, 1920, and annulling the first parliament, Mustafa Kemal Pasha sent a message to his commanders on March 19, informing them that there will be an election for a new parliament in Ankara. By then, some of the intelligentsia understood that it was no longer possible to stay in Istanbul, and they were looking at ways and means to participate in the national struggle.

Among others the occupation of Istanbul led two prominent intellectuals Nadi and Edip to leave for Ankara to join the national struggle. On their way, they discussed founding a news agency as soon as they reach to Ankara.

Recalling the event, Nadi has recorded that on March 31, 1920, on way to Ankara from Istanbul, he had stopped at a train station in Geyve, a province in northeastern Turkey. It was his fourth day of travel.

"Edip and his friends had also reached Geyve and joined them to continue an onward journey. We started the discussion, in which Edip suggested the need for a news organization to tell the truthful stories of Anatolia to the world," says Nadi’s memoirs.

"Initially, there was discussion, whether to bring out a publication or start a news agency. But, ultimately after a discussion, we agreed on news agency and discussed possibilities of various names like Turkish Agency, Ankara Agency, Anadolu Agency."

"It is indeed Anatolia which will save this country, this nation. It was decided then, it would be Anadolu Agency,” adds Nadi. Thus, the idea conceived at the train station became a reality after they reached Ankara and thereafter, never looked back.

News operations begin

On April 1, 1920, the group reached Ankara. Nadi, records that on the evening of April 4 or 5, after dinner they raised the issue of the necessity of a news agency at a meeting in Ziraat Mekteb, military headquarters of Mustafa Kemal, which now houses the General Directorate of State Meteorology. Pasha readily agreed.

It was decided that Pasha would announce the birth of Anadolu Agency. He would explain why such an agency was founded in Ankara. Pasha explained to the nation that the Agency will let everyone know around the country about what was happening, in those difficult times. “You will take the Agency’s word to the farthest corner of this country, no matter what,” he told people.

Nadi and Edib, began the operation. "We would collect all official, non-official, local and international news stories about the day, and release them twice a day," he said.

Edip records in her memoir: "After remembering my many discussions with people during our journey and before, I immediately told Yunus Nadi Bey my idea about founding an agency. People did not understand the meaning of this national struggle, because they simply could not reach to any news about it, they are not informed."

Mentioning her discussion with Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Edip writes that she and Nadi told him that they have thought of starting a news agency named Anadolu Agency.

"We proposed to send our publications to all provinces via telegraph service. And where it was not possible, we would paste posters on the walls and broadcast news in mosques. Along with this, we also needed to reach the English and French newspapers to circulate news around the world," she told Mustafa Kemal, as recorded in her memoir.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha also agreed to help launch a daily newspaper Hakimiyet-i Milliye (Sovereignty of the Nation) that Yunus Nadi Bey had suggested apart from the agency project. "I told him we would need a typewriter. He told me he would provide one from the Ottoman Bank."

Following morning on April 6, 1920, after this meeting, the Anadolu Agency was born. By taking such keen interest and handling the issue personally, Mustafa Kemal had understood the importance of the media and the significance of a news agency. In this way, he also helped the newly founded Agency to get on its feet quickly.

Ataturk issued mandate

Mustafa Kemal issued a historical order to all provinces, military and legal offices around the country, announcing the foundation of Anadolu Agency, and let the people know the importance and fully understanding the vitality of the national struggle.

"After the fortress of Islam, the Ottoman Empire’s center Istanbul fell into the hands of the enemy, our nation and our country are faced with a great threat. All of Anatolia and Rumelia is now in a sacred struggle. During this hardship, Muslims in our lands should be able to reach the truest news locally and internationally, and for that reason, an institution called Anadolu Agency has been founded with the most senior and expert names, under the directorate of a council,” said the order signed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Explaining the duties of the Agency, he said it will provide news and information and in the fastest means, possibly will also disseminate official decrees of the Representative Council. He said the news items will be put up at designated roads, streets, and centers, but more importantly, they will be sent to all provinces including the farthest corner of all our villages.

"All provinces are asked to work with this decree and make necessary adjustments, for our people to reach news as soon as possible," he said.

Mustafa Kemal also emphasized that it was not just news, but the factual news that has to be disseminated. He also meant to use all resources which news agencies across the world were using, when he mentioned the news should reach with the possible fastest means. He put on an obligation to provide news that has all the elements -- truth, exactness, objectivity -- and should reach as fast as possible.

After the announcement, Anadolu Agency began its operation in a room in Ziraat Mekteb headquarters.

"One of the long and narrow rooms in the quarters was given to us, and all there were shelves, a chair, two tables, and an old typewriter," writes Edip in the memoir on her fifth day in Ankara.

In this room, the very first office of Anadolu Agency, Edip translated the columns of the English newspapers, checked telegraphic messages that came from Mustafa Kemal, made news reports for the Agency and the Hakimiyet-i Milliye daily. She also prepared texts about Mustafa Kemal’s other meetings and correspondences.

The office was later moved to the basement of a high school and then to a two-story building in Samanpazari, Ankara. All the news was produced with the same typewriter that Mustafa Kemal had found for Halide Edip in the Ottoman Bank.

First new item disseminated six days later

The first batch of news items disseminated on April 12, 1920, also announced kickstarting the operations of the Agency. It read: "Our state center has fallen into enemy hands. While Anatolia and Rumelia are on the move to join this national struggle with determination, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that our brothers in religion and country are informed of the truest news and information. For that reason, Anadolu Agency starts its work, beginning today. Everyone has the right to know, reach and read stories and news about what’s happening around them. Therefore, we have created special task forces which will bring you the news, put them up on the doors of telegraph offices, also publish and distribute them if there are enough sources, take them to the furthest points of our provinces and villages. In this task, we also ask our people’s help and support. Following this, here’s what is happening lately…"

Anadolu Agency used to release news twice a day and ensured that it was delivered to all corners of the world. In another mandate dated May 5, 1920, signed by Head of Parliament Mustafa Kemal, it was stated that Anadolu Agency’s issues will be delivered to the furthest corner by using all transport vehicles.

Foundation of the Agency created an excitement among the Anatolian population, who were curious about the news regarding the national struggle, the new Ankara government, and above all, wanted independence. The telegraphic messages congratulating the Agency flowed to Ankara from all corners of the country. These messages said that the people were ready to provide all kinds of help in delivering the Agency’s issues everywhere possible.

The Anadolu Agency’s issues were also regularly sent to military troops who were fighting on the fronts. Along with this, the issues were sent to local newspapers that were struggling to publish factual news to raise the awareness of resistance in the people, against all oppression and invasion attempts of the allied forces.

Stiff challenges

With orders of Pasha, the Agency’s news was also sent to the people of occupied Istanbul and the local media there, with utmost secrecy. With Ankara government’s official decrees, important news from abroad, warnings for people, news from the front and answers to Allied Forces’ propaganda, Anadolu Agency issues bridged a gap in the news. It launched and defended the second front in the war.

Besides two founders and Hamdullah Suphi Bey, the number of staff in the office increased to 10 soon. There were many challenges. It was not possible to publish and distribute the agency’s very first issues in large numbers, which were printed in a small room. The printing house in Ankara was old and it frequently broke down. Sometimes they were printed with a mimeograph, at times handwritten and sent to the post offices.

During the War of Independence, Anadolu Agency informed the public of the decrees and steps to be taken to help the national independence. It also raised the awareness of the people against all the black propaganda that would endanger national unity. Anadolu Agency worked hard to provide news fast and on time. It also delivered the parliament’s decrees to the people, thus contributing to further their link with the new government.

Anadolu Agency’s first General Director was Aladdin Bey. He took over the task on Jan. 1, 1926, and then handed it on to Muvaffak Menemencioglu on Feb. 1, 1931. Faik H. Hozar followed him on Oct. 19, 1944, and he handed it over to Muvaffak Sunal on June 1, 1946. Following them, Ziha Gevher Etili in 1948-1951, Saim Nuri Uray in 1951-1952, Serif Arzik 1953-1959, Firuzan F. Tekil in 1959-1960, Cemal Aygen in 1960-1961 worked as general directors of the Agency.

Erdogan Ulus handed the task over to Nail Mutlugil in 1961. Munir Berk became the director in 1963. Following them, Atilla Onuk, Izzet Sedes, Aytekin Yildiz, Cevdet Tanyeli, Husamettin Celebi, Behic Eksi, Ceyhan Baytur, Turgay Ucoz, Ekrem Karaismailoglu, Mehmet Akarca, Mehmet Guler, Hilmi Bengi, Kemal Ozturk and Senol Kazanci became heads of the Agency in chronological order.

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