The fading days of media coverage from the centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli have been whittled away and the news cycle has now moved onto many other pressing issues.
Looking through much of the Australian Media coverage in particular, they have devoted a huge amount of resources on the important commemoration of the day, spending all manner of money to get crews and journalists over to Turkey.
But there are many journalists who haven’t travelled far to provide some really good content for local Australian audiences.
SBS journalist Ismail Kayhan has embedded himself into the ANZAC story like no other. This year, he has worked as a journalist without heading to Gallipoli. He worked within the studios of SBS Radio in Melbourne’s Federation Square and conducted a succession of interviews over the past month with descendants of two soldiers who fought on the Gallipoli shores which resulted in a large-scale multimedia project for the SBS website called 100 years after Gallipoli.
“[Working on a project like this] is very special. I am married to an Australian woman and I know how important this story is for them too. It is certainly important for Turks too. Bringing these two soldiers – Charles Leer and Halis Bey – together in my story I felt [was] a lifetime experience. It is so sweet talking to the descendants too,” he said.
An audio portion of Kayhan’s multimedia project, ‘100 years after Gallipoli’ outlines the story of these two soldiers with great detail.
The experience of Kayhan’s research has made him realise how much the story means to descendants of those who fought in the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was a feeling that he, a Turkish immigrant who has lived in Australia for over twenty years, had not been aware of amongst Australian society until recently.
“I had not much of an idea about Gallipoli’s specific stories before this large project and particularly before I came to live here. I knew about Anzac Day of course, but not how important it was to Australians. I feel I know nearly every special movement of the landing now.”
But while these accounts from Gallipoli do provide sombre stories and the so-called ANZAC myth give an insight to the narrative of Australian identity, some argue that this amount of coverage is too large for what is basically an anniversary of a war battle.
The prominence that Anzac Day has within the larger community is due to increased politicisation, according to some and the recent commemorations have seen public figures criticised of doing so in their speeches. In turn the media love to grab onto and report as it adds onto the growing coverage of this day.
A case in point – ANU professor Hugh White pointed out in an article for the Fairfax press that the 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War passed without so much as a peep from mainstream media.
Executive editor of Upstart and freelance journalist Erdem Koç is currently in Turkey completing a creative PhD thesis for La Trobe University and is overseeing a website of his own called A Hidden Legacy, aiming to examine “what the legacy of the Anzac legend is for the Turkish-Australian community.”
Koç states that the media relationship between the two countries remains respectful and mutual, but also has a certain, curiously wary tone. “Most Turkish journalists can understand why Anzac Cove is so important for Australians and New Zealanders on this day. Of course, it does strike some of them as bizarre, that the land which ANZACs invaded and suffered a heavy defeat at is somewhat glorified at times, but it’s been instilled into Turkish psyche that the day is of some significance. That, and Turks’ general hospitable nature, is a recipe, really, for them welcoming the foreign media contingent.”
The coverage of Anzac Day within Turkish media is certainly an event that bypasses fascination of the other, with one of the country’s largest websites, Türkiye publishing only three articles exploring our own local view, rather than exploring theirs.
Koç also stated in a podcast produced for La Trobe University (as well as an article for The Conversation) that the whole story of where the Turkish perspective lies is deeper than what just happened on the 25 April 1915.
Turkey’s media coverage of events stemming from World War I extend beyond just Anzac Day.
With the political climate which Turkey sees itself in, it would be understandable for Turkey’s media to put significantly less resources into coverage of Anzac Day than their Australian and New Zealand counterparts. Much more talk surrounds discussion of the events in relation to the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, which started around the same time as the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign.
Much of this talk surrounds the labeling of the event in particular, which has generated discussion past the commemorations. Erdem Koç believes there will be contention over such labeling for many years to come. “There has been quite a bit of political pressure on Turkey to label the events of 1915 as ‘genocide’. The government, various media outlets [and] NGOs all drove home messages of sorrow and remembrance for those who were killed in 1915. Many historians have different takes on what happened. The European Court of Human Rights however, last year ruled that there is no overwhelming evidence to suggest it was genocide, and therefore, countries [and] parliaments cannot pursue the use of this word and expect people to follow it. This was based in the Perincek v Switzerland case – a very interesting one at that.”
The differences in perspectives are complex and mean many things for opposite sides. It’s a weird feeling to think that Australia and New Zealand as nations consider it a piece of the puzzle to identify ourselves as a group – which in turn is amplified by the obtuse words and speeches of the day. But then again, it was a significant part of the history of Australia, and can be recognized as such.
Whether it should be put on a pedestal as a day worthy of the blanket coverage we see nowadays can certainly be discussed as the anniversary becomes much more of a round number.