Anadolu Agency: Voice of Anatolia for 101 years
With idea for agency conceived at train station a century ago, Turkish news wire’s operations have traveled far and wide
Anadolu Agency, founded on April 6, 1920 during the War of Independence on the instructions of the Republic of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, has been the voice of Anatolia to the world for 101 years.
Established 17 days before the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the parliament, Anadolu Agency continues to be a reliable source of news with more than a century of experience.
One of the world’s most influential and respected news agencies, it makes a difference with news and visuals transmitted from hot regions.
The establishment of the Anadolu Agency took place during a difficult period that could be called the "turning point of Turkey’s national struggle.”
Yunus Nadi Abalioglu and Halide Edip Adivar, two intellectuals who set out for Anatolia 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.
The name "Anadolu Agency" – using the Turkish word for Anatolia – stood out for Abalioglu among Adivar’s suggestions such as "Turkish Agency" and "Ankara Agency,” and the idea and name of the agency were born.
The two arrived in Ankara on the evening of April 1. On April 4-5, talks on the establishment of Anadolu Agency were launched.
Anadolu Agency, established by a historical circular, became the voice of the national struggle at home and abroad, which is considered "the Turk's ordeal with fire.”
Ataturk issues mandate
Mustafa Kemal not only announced the establishment of Anadolu Agency with the 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 establishment of Anadolu Agency 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.”
Explaining the duties of the agency, he said it will provide news and information and possibly will also disseminate official decrees of the representative council. He noted that 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 corners of all villages.
"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 also stressed that only the news having the elements of truth and objectivity must be disseminated. He also meant to use all resources which news agencies across the world were using when he mentioned the news should be spread as quickly as possible.
1st batch of news disseminated
Initially, it was decided to publish at least two bulletins per day, and great attention was paid to delivering Anadolu Agency’s news nationwide. Another circular signed by Mustafa Kemal requested that all means be used to deliver agency bulletins to the remotest points and that the postal and telegraph centers conduct the necessary reviews of bulletins that did not arrive on time.
Anadolu Agency, established under the difficult conditions of the day, began to report news on April 12, 1920. 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 is happening lately … ."
Place for reliable news
After this date, Anadolu Agency, with its establishment announced to the whole country by official declarations, was intended to inform the public about the reasons, direction of development, 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 telegraphists, and we want it known that negligence in this regard will constitute a crime against the motherland."
‘Voice’ of national struggle
The founding of the agency stirred excitement among the Anatolian population, who were curious about the news regarding the national struggle, the new Ankara government, and above all wanted independence. Telegraphic messages 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 in the people, against all oppression and invasion attempts of the Allied forces.
On the orders of Mustafa Kemal, 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 people, news from the front, and answers to the Allied forces’ propaganda, Anadolu Agency’s 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 increased 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 the post offices.
26 general directors
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, and 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, respectively.
In the preparation of Anadolu agency bulletins, publication principles were strictly adhered to in the past as they are today.
During the War of Independence, Anadolu Agency, keeping the nation awake against incitements and lies that would endanger the national unity, informing the public in time about decisions and movements that would lead the national struggle to independence, made efforts to inform the public correctly and made an important contribution to ensuring the integration of the people with the new government by communicating the decisions taken by the parliament to the public.
The agency now operates in 13 languages and provides news to more than 6,000 subscribers from over 100 countries.
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*Writing by Merve Berker