This week the agenda of both Turkey and Armenia were filled with heated debate surrounding the events on 1915, with one side pushing for classifying them as genocide and the other one trying to shift the argument over to historians rather than politicians. But we are neither historians nor politicians, so the reason I bring this matter to your attention is the recent controversy surrounding The New York Times and its refusal to publish an advertisement that promotes a pro-peace and reconciliation attitude. In order to provide the context, let me summarize the events leading to this controversy. The Turkish-American Steering Committee applied to The New York Times to publish an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and members of Congress as well as advertising that the Turkish-American community will march in Washington on April 24. The New York Times rejected publishing the advertisement as it was and the letter was published in the Washington Post instead. The reasons for The New York Times' reluctance to publish the letter were reported by Ragıp Soylu, Daily Sabah's Washington correspondent: "However the e-mails obtained by Daily Sabah revealed that The New York Times asked the Steering Committee, which represents over 145 Turkish-American associations, to remove three out of five paragraphs of the letter, which depicts the 1915 incidents as a civilian tragedy that cost the lives of millions of Ottoman citizens including Armenians, Turks, Kurds and Arabs. The targeted paragraphs underline the fact that there is no academic consensus on the incidents by referencing substantial numbers of international scholars who declined to label the atrocities as genocide."
It is clear that the matter was controversial both politically and academically, but The New York Times officer responsible for advocacy advertising, Michael Hayden, told the Turkish-American Steering Committee that the Armenian genocide was a generally accepted fact just like the World Trade Center attacks and the Holocaust. On one hand, we see many journalists accusing each other and saying that journalists are not historians, but when it comes to the 1915 tragedies this notion is usually the first thing to go. Also in the past we saw that The New York Times was no stranger to accepting ads or articles that found controversial by others. A Gezi Park advertisement and an article written by Fethullah Gülen come to mind. So why was the ad by the Turkish-American lobby singled out here? And I do not believe the defense of "generally accepted facts" will aid them in this subject, because historically, academically and politically there is no certainty. Thus, by accepting one side's perspective as truth and acting accordingly, it is quite clear that there are some general journalistic principles being trampled here. After all, by even excluding the title of the ad "Unite Us, Not Divide Us", the Turkish-American Steering Community was robbed of its right to controvert and rebut the claims of genocide. Also another question arises, since New York Times clearly plays favorites when it comes to publishing content came from others. Are "generally accepted facts" their only defense on the matter of this bias or is there another reason for their ethical inconsistency?