New York Times Writer Displays Bias for Azerbaijan in Article


(The following letter was sent to the New York Times in protest of a recent article on Nagorno Karabagh.)

To the Editor:

The New York Times is a pacesetter in responsible journalism, yet that very same vocation pre-empts it from undermining its own standards and journalistic standards.

The article published in your May 31 issue by Ellen Barry constitutes disservice to your readers and to people in general.

Under the title, “Frozen Conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenian begins to boil,” the writer covers the bellicose mood in Azerbaijan, freely subscribing to views and statements of the Azeri side.

It is not for us to remind any journalist tackling a topic to do his or her homework. Ellen Barry has allowed herself to use blanket statements without heeding history. She writes: “Since the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has been trying to regain control of Nagorno-Karabagh, a predominantly Armenian enclave within its borders, and secure the return of ethnic Azeris who were forced from their homes by the war.”

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There is more than one falsehood in the above statement. Why should a New York Times writer endorse freely what the Azeri government has been harping along that Karabagh is within Azerbaijan’s borders, when even in the harshest Stalinist period it had a special status as a autonomous region (oblask) similar to the Nakhichevan exclave, which was an autonomous republic, both brought under Azeri rule by a ruse of Stalin? During the Soviet period, 60 percent of Nakhichevan’s population was Armenian, but the region was depopulated through the “brotherly” conniving of KGB colonel and Politburo member Heydar Aliyev, who eventually became the leader of Azerbaijan and was in turn succeeded by his son, Ilham, in a democratic nation (irony intended).

Your correspondent dwells at length on Azerbaijan’s refugee problem, noting some heart-wrenching cases, which sound very tragic when taken out of historic context.

First, the refugee problem was the outcome of the war, which the Azerbaijani government launched against the Armenians in Karabagh.

Second, while the Aliyev dynasty and its minions reap the nation’s vast oil wealth, living at an obscene level of opulence, i.e., residences in Dubai and Paris shopping blow-outs, they keep the refugees as political pawns to make a case vis-a-vis the international community on the cruelty of Armenia.

It looks like your writer’s heart has been bleeding when writing about the Azeri refugee problem.

The following quote covers only one side of the refugee problem, which intentionally leaves out the other phase: “Among the forces driving Baku refugees who have spent nearly two decades in limbo. The United Nations says there are 586,013 — 7 percent of Azerbaijan’s population, which is one of the highest per capita displacement rates in the world, according to the International Displacement Monitoring center.”

Your writer must be commended for resorting for reliable sources to preserve the integrity of her fact- finding statement, but why does she not employ the same due diligence in reporting what happened to the Armenian refugees of Sumgait and Baku in 1988 and 1990, after the pogroms were launched against them by the Azeri government?

During the Soviet period, an affluent community of Armenians lived in Azerbaijan, numbering 450,000. They were killed or deported. Those who believed they have found a safe haven in Armenia were killed in the 1988 earthquake. I would like to leave the math to you to figure out the percentage of 450,000 Armenian refugees over a population of 3 million.

Last but not least, Barry writes: “Azerbaijan, by far the richer of the two, has increased defense spending twenty-fold since 2003, according to the International Crisis Group.”

Rather than using the petrodollars for gearing up for a new war, the Azeri government could solve its refugee problem, which is its own doing and compensate the Armenian refugees who left their properties behind in Azerbaijan.

By playing up to the conscience of the world, your writer is adding fuel to Azeri intentions of launching a new war.

A balanced and comprehensive coverage would have contributed to the just settlement of this thorny crisis and consequently contributed to the cause of responsible and fair journalism.

— Edmond Y. Azadian Chairman, Armenian Rights Council of America

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