Demonstrators rally outside the Turkish
Consulate in Los Angeles on April 24 to commemorate the killings of an
estimated 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire more than a century
ago. (Richard Vogel/AP)


By Alex Bastian and Ara Jabagchourian on May 10, 2016 1:00
am


Imagine
respectful publications providing credence to Jewish Holocaust denial or
arguing that the African slave trade was just a historical misunderstanding.
The editorial boards and reporters, who follow ethical standards of journalism,
would never allow such a thing to happen.







However, between April 20 and April 24, a deceptive ad campaign did just that.
The Turkish lobby, which has continued its campaign of genocide denial related
to the 1.5 million Armenians slaughtered from 1915-1923, exploited a dichotomy
in our nation’s media. Given ethical limitations and overwhelming evidence to
the contrary, no reporter would be able to run a legitimate story denying the
existence of the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, the Turkish lobby, funded by the
Turkish government, avoided journalism altogether and went through the
advertisement arm of these very same reputable publications. They utilized a
sneaky and disingenuous ad campaign that used a peace sign to lull the
unsuspecting and perhaps negligent advertisement employee to portray their
message of genocide denial. To the dismay of humanitarians everywhere, the
advertisement arm of numerous national and local publications bit on the bait
of money cast by the Turkish lobby’s orchestrated propaganda operation. It was
a sad day, it appeared as though reputable news agencies were in the business
of buying and selling the truth.


Now
just to clarify, having the truth suppressed, silenced or changed altogether is
not a new occurrence as it relates to the Armenian Genocide. Nor is it new to
other suffering and colonized populations who know what it means to be ignored
and forgotten. The Athenian historian Thucydides once said “the strong do what
they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” All too often, the strong have
used their finances, political clout and brute strength to crush the weak in
the arenas of politics, the marketplace and the battlefield. But there is
something inherently different about the arena of free press, and that
difference is the relentless motivation of trustworthy news agencies in seeking
the truth.


So
how did this deceptive ad happen to get published? To understand, one must
first appreciate the current climate for news agencies everywhere. In this day
and age, reputable news publications are getting crushed financially. Budgets
are being slashed, and the need to fill up ad space grows by the day. Employees
on the advertising side, who are not always well-versed on the news, are
relentlessly looking to generate income. It doesn’t take much to see why a
negligent employee in advertising would mistakenly decide to run a misleading
ad.


What
this particular incident highlights is the dichotomy that exists between the
journalism and advertisement arms within the same publications. The ethical and
truth-finding filter that exists on the journalism side fails to be applied to
the advertisement side, especially when it involves historical or political
analysis. Unfortunately, this sends a very dangerous message to the powerful
and wealthy that if they cannot control the narrative through ethical
journalistic channels, they can exploit the system through unfiltered ad
campaigns.


The
idea of truth through dialogue, the underpinnings of the First Amendment
principles of freedom of speech and the press, has the potential of being
perverted through the undue influence of wealth. Such a perversion would
generally impact suffering and colonized people, who typically only have the
power of truth to bring injustice to light. It is what the free press provides
those without power and influence: a shot to get their plight out in the public
eye in hopes that it will mobilize efforts to resolve underlying problems.
Fortunately, this country’s free press believes in the idea of truth and
applies journalistic ethics to what it publishes.


The
Armenian Genocide has been well recognized by historians and academia from
across the world, including many from Turkey itself. In fact, Raphael Lemkin,
who coined the term “genocide,” did so while studying the atrocities committed
against the Armenian people. The denial of the genocide comes from the same few
historians who have close ties, including financial ties, to the current
Turkish government. Yet despite the wealth of the Turkish government and the
influence it plays in our nation’s global policy, the integrity of United
States journalism has remained true to the recognition of the genocide.


So
when one sees the Turkish lobby’s systematic efforts to run a multimillion
dollar advertisement campaign with a deceptive reference to Turkey having
always been peaceful, it is only natural for humanitarians of all backgrounds
to view such an ad with shock and dismay. Although we are disappointed with the
publications that ran the paid-for Turkish propaganda, we are also steadfastly
proud of the journalists and editorial boards, such as the ones at The San
Francisco Examiner, who are seeking to make things right by publishing this
op-ed today, by pledging to not run such a deceptive ad in the future, and by
always reporting the well-established fact that what the Armenians suffered at
the hands of the Ottoman Turks was nothing short of genocide.


Alex Bastian, Director of Communications for the San Francisco
District Attorney’s Office, and Ara Jabagchourian, Attorney at Law Offices of
Ara Jabagchourian, are both descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors.


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