Turkey’s private ANKA news agency closes after 46 years

Turkey’s private ANKA News Agency closed on Tuesday after 46 years in business, according to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily.

ANKA, which had reported news stories without interruption since it was founded by journalist Altan Öymen in 1972, published its final news report on Tuesday evening. Journalist Alican Uludağ, who reported on ANKA’s closure for Cumhuriyet, called it a “black day” in the history of the press.

Öymen would go on to a political career that eventually carried him to the leadership of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), cutting his ties with the news agency when he entered politics in 1977. At that point Müşerref Hekimoğlu took over as director of ANKA, which he ran until 2004.

During its 46 years in business, the agency employed some of Turkey’s most renowned writers, including famed investigative journalist Uğur Mumcu, author and journalist Sevgi Soysal, journalist Hasan Cemal and economy writer Vahap Munyar.

The closure of ANKA is another blow to a Turkish media that has already lost the vast majority of its independent outlets in recent years. After the sale of the Doğan Media Group to the government-linked Demirören Holding in March of this year, an estimated 90 percent of Turkish newspaper circulation is now controlled by the government.

Meanwhile, a Turkish journalist is facing trial over an article covering the appointment of relatives of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) administrative positions, the independent Diken news website reported.

Birgün daily correspondent Nurcan Gökdemir, accused of “defaming” Erdoğan, has been summoned to court for her news piece covering appointments to Turkey’s Ministry of Finance.

The article published in August mentioned a relative of Erdoğan by the name of Ahmet Minder, whose daughters were reported to have married AKP officials, as well as Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.

Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey, and lawyers of the Turkish president have filed more than 1,800 cases against people on such accusations.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 31, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 69 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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