The demise of Anka
It is difficult to imagine the great difficulties Veli Özdemir and Nuri Sefa Erdem endured to keep the Anka News Agency, one of the last bastions of free and independent news, alive. This week, with a very short notice to its remaining few subscribers and in a press statement, it was announced that the 46-year-old journey of Anka has come to an end.
Anka was a school of economic and political news. Established in 1972 by Altan Öymen, a living legend of Turkish journalism as well as social democratic politics, the news agency continued its publication life uninterrupted until it came to a very sad termination this week. Very eminent journalists were raised from the newsroom of Anka. Müşerref Hekimoğlu, the great Turkish lady that introduced arts and culture pages to Turkish media, was its second director. She was followed by Nazif Ekzen. It was the home of very important names of the Turkish media, including my old friend Uluç Gürkan who later entered politics like Öymen and also became one of the prominent names of social democratic politics.
Very important news stories were written by Anka reporters. For a long period, very much like the official statistics office of the republic, Anka was considered the most trustworthy agency regarding the performance of not only the Turkish economy, but also of major companies as well as political parties. The most serious and daring analysis of political developments were always coming from Anka. It was a very brave news agency competing with the state-owned Anadolu Agency as well as with “conglomerate agencies,” such as the Akajans – long dead – of the Tercüman – also long dead – and others.
It is so sad that the shrinking Turkish media has swallowed Anka, which anyhow was in serious economic difficulties and waging a challenging struggle to survive ever since the early 2000s. Was it because of the changing political climate or the monopolization of the Turkish media? That can be debated but no answer might probably be as clear as the short statement of the last Anka board in which they said they have decided to end its long and brave journey.
The Turkish press will definitely overcome the current hurdles, perhaps transform into something different. But in any form it will manage to continue with courageous media initiatives such as Anka. We will miss Anka; it is a very sad loss.
I spoke with the chairperson of the Ağrı Journalists’ Association, Alaettin Aslan, the other day. He was very sad. Of the 18 newspapers in the eastern province of Ağrı, only two are left, all the rest have closed their doors over the last year. Some 400 people, he said, were kicked out of the journalism profession because their newspapers and magazines were closed down. Printing costs and other related costs have been increasing so fast and viciously since the Turkish Lira lost almost half of its value in the last few months.
What might come tomorrow? There is already talk that the government was considering a move on public advertisements and terminate the Public Advertisements Authority, which was established after the 1960 coup, to end partisan distribution of official ads. Such a development might be the last nail in the coffin of local media in Turkey.
The hopeful side, however, is the emergence of digital media. Most local media outlets have already established their digital versions. That offers a glimmer of hope.