16 May 2007

1695) Agos Newspaper Carries On The Hrant Dink Legacy

Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink and his team established the newspaper and published it in Turkish, bringing the Armenian community and the Turkish public closer

The Armenian world, the Turkish world, Agos newspaper and a family suffered a loss with the killing of Agos editor-in-chief, Hrant Dink, on April 19, 2007. One could argue that he was irreplaceable, intellectually gifted, thoughtful and clear-sighted - qualities that are sadly missed in difficult times.

Agos is an Armenian newspaper that is now 11 years old. The name refers to the hole one digs before planting crops or flowers in the soil. The paper with a current circulation of 10,000 (up from 5,000 just prior to Dink's death) is published once a week and openly proclaims that it is a political newspaper. Three of the 24 pages are in Armenian instead of the previous two and the rest is in Turkish. It actually started its publishing life with eight pages, two in Armenian and six in Turkish and rose to 24 pages following its editor-in-chief's murder. The section on Armenian culture has been expanded to six pages.

Dink's death is the last in a long line of such attacks that started with the murder of Serbesti newspaper chief columnist Hasan Fehmi Bey on April 6, 1909. In the last 98 years 61 journalists have lost their lives in Turkey. Turkish Press Council Chairman Oktay Eksi is among those who have been targeted but managed to escape being assaulted only at the last minute. Eksi said to the Turkish Daily News that this works out to one journalist being killed in Turkey every year and a half.

The first Agos newspaper appeared on April 5, 1996 and it was a new and radical voice for the Armenian community. Its most important aspect was to be a newspaper that explained Turkish Armenians. Until this newspaper appeared, Turkish Armenians were a community that shut themselves to the rest of society. Nor Marmara and Jamanak newspapers were published only in Armenian. Dink and his team established Agos newspaper and published it in Turkish, bringing the Armenian community and the Turkish public closer.

Dink was a good leftist, a good revolutionary and this was reflected in the newspaper. That is, Agos became a leftist, revolutionary newspaper and from time to time his identity as a revolutionary and laic journalist even superceded his Armenian identity. Dink was not only against the official line on Turkish-Armenian relations or the alleged Armenian genocide but he was also opposed to the official line on many subjects such as the Kurds, Alevis, religion-state relations and the headscarf. In his articles however, he emphasized that he wanted every ethnic community in Turkey to live in peace.

Dink wrote for Birgun and Zaman newspapers as well as Agos and was to begin writing for the Turkish Daily News the week he died. The American journalist and writer, Steven Kinzer, once said to Dink “You have turned into a heroic journalist.” To which Dink replied, “I understand and I am not stopping.”

For a short time after Dink died, artists and intellectuals bought copies of Agos in order to help the newspaper. It continues publication today, headed by editor-in-chief Etiyen Mahcupyan assisted by Aydin Engin, Baskin Oran and Ali Bayramoglu and it still follows the ground rules established by Dink. Agos will continue trying to offer unbiased news and commentaries based on the information it obtains.

May 16, 2007
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News


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