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Anadolu Agency marking its 102nd anniversary

Established in trying times, Anadolu Agency could be called 'turning point of Turkiye’s national struggle'

Yildiz Nevin Gundogmus   | 05.04.2022
Anadolu Agency marking its 102nd anniversary


Anadolu Agency, established on April 6, 1920 during the War of Independence on the instructions of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkiye, has been Turkiye’s voice to the world for 102 years.

Established 17 days before the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, or parliament, Anadolu Agency holds a special place in the history of the republic.

The establishment of Anadolu Agency took place during a difficult period that could be called the "turning point of Turkiye’s national struggle.”

Yunus Nadi Abalioglu and Halide Edip Adivar, two intellectuals who set out for Turkiye’s Anatolian heartland to take part in the national struggle, discussed the issue of establishing an agency as soon as they arrived in Ankara – the future capital – during a break in their train journey.

Recounting the event, Nadi said that on March 31, 1920, on way to Ankara from Istanbul, he stopped at a train station in Geyve, northeastern Turkiye. It was his fourth day of travel.

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

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

"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 they never looked back.

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 need for a news agency at a meeting at Ziraat Mekteb, the military headquarters of Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later Ataturk), which now houses the State Meteorology General Directorate. Pasha readily agreed.

Birth of Anadolu Agency

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

Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) not only announced the establishment of Anadolu Agency with a historical circular he sent to the whole country but also pointed to the importance of announcing the nation's struggle across the world.

The circular he signed on the agency’s establishment is as follows:

"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 are 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.”

On the agency’s duties, he said it would provide news and information and possibly will also disseminate official decrees of the representative council. Its news items will be put up on designated roads, streets, and centers, but more importantly, they will be sent to all provinces, including the farthest corners of all villages, he said.

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

Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) also emphasized that it was not just news, but factual news that has to be disseminated. When he mentioned that the news should be spread with the possible fastest means, he also meant to use all resources which news agencies across the world were using. He established the obligation to provide news that has all the elements – truth, exactitude, and objectivity – and should reach the people as quickly as possible.

News operations begin

After the announcement, Anadolu Agency began its operation on April 12, 1920, in a room at the Ziraat Mektebi headquarters.

"One of the long and narrow rooms in the quarters was given to us, and all there was were shelves, a chair, two tables, and an old typewriter," wrote Edip in her memoirs.

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

In its first bulletin, the situation in the country was laid out, and within this framework, the purpose of the establishment of Anadolu Agency was given. The bulletin stressed the importance of the distribution of agency bulletins, while the need for the establishment of a network for the distribution of agency bulletins and its regular operation was emphasized. The first bulletin contained news from both at home and abroad.

The agency’s first bulletin read as follows:

"The center of our state 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, access, and read stories and news about what’s happening around them. Thus, we have created special task forces which will bring you the news, put it up on the doors of telegraph offices, also publish and distribute it if there are enough resources, and take it to the furthest points of our provinces and villages. In this task, we also ask for our people’s help and support. Following this, here is what has recently happened … ."

Initially, it was decided to publish at least two bulletins per day, and great attention was paid to delivering Anadolu Agency’s news nationwide.

Agency spreads most accurate domestic, foreign news

Anadolu Agency, with its establishment announced to the whole country by official declarations, was intended to inform the public about the reasons, direction of developments, and other elements of the national struggle for independence in Anatolia to illuminate people with the most accurate domestic and foreign news.

Mustafa Kemal was also closely interested in the functioning of Anadolu Agency events throughout the country, and for this purpose not only announced the establishment of the agency but also made various correspondence, especially on the issue of delivering agency bulletins.

In a circular to the Anatolian Telegraph Center on April 18, 1920, Mustafa Kemal called any neglect in delivering Anadolu Agency bulletins "a crime against the homeland."

"We are receiving complaints that Anadolu Agency bulletins have not been spread or sent to some places. At this time, when Anatolia has lost all means of communication with the outside, we undoubtedly consider that this service, undertaken so that no members of the nation are unaware, will also be accepted and strengthened by all our telegraph operators, and we want it known that negligence in this regard will constitute a crime against the motherland."

The establishment of the agency stirred great excitement in Anatolia, which was curious about the developments related to the national struggle, the new Ankara government, and above all wanted independence. Telegraphs congratulating the agency flowed to Ankara from all corners of the country. These messages said the people were ready to provide all kinds of help in delivering the agency’s news everywhere possible.

Anadolu Agency bulletins were also regularly sent to troops who were fighting on the front. They were also sent to local newspapers that were struggling to publish factual news to raise the awareness of resistance among the people, against all oppression and invasion attempts of the Allied forces.

On the orders of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), the agency’s news was also sent to the people of occupied Istanbul and the local media there with utmost secrecy. With the Ankara government’s official decrees, important news from abroad, warnings for the public, news from the front, and answers to the Allied forces’ propaganda, Anadolu Agency bulletins bridged a gap in the news. It launched and defended the second front in the war.

Besides the two founders and Hamdullah Suphi Bey, the number of staff in the office soon rose to 10. 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, and at times handwritten and sent to post offices.

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 at the Ottoman Bank.

27 directors general

Anadolu Agency’s first director general 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 over the helm to Muvaffak Sunal on June 1, 1946. Following them were Ziya Gevher Etili in 1948-1951, Saim Nuri Uray in 1951-1952, Serif Arzik in 1953-1959, Firuzan F. Tekil in 1959-1960, and Cemal Aygen in 1960-1961.

Erdogan Ulus handed the top post over to Nail Mutlugil in 1961. Munir Berk took the helm in 1963, followed by 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, Senol Kazanci, and Serdar Karagoz.

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