Armen Kouyoumdjian

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Letter to the Economist

For the attention of
Andrew Rashbass, Publisher
John Micklethwait, Editor in Chief

THE ECONOMIST May 26, 2007
25 St James's Street
London SW1A 1HG
United Kingdom

Dear Sirs,


Two weeks ago, my 36th yearly subscription to The Economist came to an end, and for the first time, it was not renewed. One does not undertake such a move lightly, and I would like you as the most senior people responsible for its editorial content to be aware of the reasons. These go beyond the fact that even with hand-delivery, your circulation wizards are incapable of getting the issues to subscribers in Chile's capital until 5 days after publication.

Over the long period when I was a reader, I witnessed many shifts in editorial policy with which I disagreed. Your unreserved support for Thatcherite economic policies, your pro-Israeli stand on the Middle Eastern conflict and, last but not least, your backing of the US invasion of Iraq and its subsequent disastrous presence there.

I have a number of facets to my personal and professional life. I am an Armenian born in Lebanon, with a French education ending in France itself, a British passport and over 30 years of professional specialisation in Latin America (even though your Santiago correspondent, happy enough to pick my brains, never considered my expertise worthy of quoting in her despatches). I therefore have to read a lot of material and can take many things with a pinch of salt. I have written several letters on the particular subject of correcting factual errors in your Latin American coverage. None of which has made it even into your blogsite. However, where I have finally had to draw the line has been over your stance towards Armenia and the Armenians.

Your attitude there has also evolved. You started by what I would call hostile indifference. You managed to publish several page long articles on Turkey, even full supplements, without even mentioning the Armenian question. Little by little, when EU membership for Turkey and the related de facto conditionality became unavoidable, you did start writing about us.

However, it was always in a tut-tutting or insulting fashion. You singled out Armenia as "corrupt" in an article about the region, unfairly among a bunch which are as much if more. When Hrant Dink was assassinated in January, this paragon of press freedom and liberal causes that your paper claims to be, decided that a Playboy slut (Anne Nicole) was more worthy of an obituary that week than a martyr to free speech. Indifference did not disappear. When you wrote about the diamond-cutting industry, you did not even mention Armenia which only happens to be one of the three world centres for that trade (cut diamonds are Armenia's principal export).

One day, I spent a long time going through your blog site, where you pretend to include "most" letters that do not make it into the print edition. Though I did concentrate on the weeks following articles on Armenia or the Armenians, I did look over virtually every day. There was not a single letter there from an Armenian (we are easy to identify by our surnames). Not on Armenia, not on Bangladeshi politics or Nigerian oil. Armenians are out of the pages of The Economist.

Your greatest unforgivable sin is to join the BBC in constantly referring to the "alleged" Armenian "genocide" (carefully put in brackets), after 92 years and all the evidence in the world, an attitude which is as illegal in many countries as is Holocaust negation (something you would never of course dare to do). After nearly a century, we are sick and tired of being treated like the Flat Earth Society (which Mike Mardell, European Editor of the BBC comparedus to in a private email to myself).

I might have thought that you, like many Anglo-Saxons, are just ignorant rather than mercenary. However, after the mercenary hatchet-job article you published on Jose Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the OECD, whom I have know for over 30 years and is probably the most brilliant man to have headed a multinational institution for a long time, I can only conclude that silver pieces from Turkey are also changing hands. May you be able to live with it.

I used to keep a year's backlog of issues in my office. They shall now be thrown away. The newsprint is not good enough as toilet paper, and even if it were, the editorial contents are unworthy of touching an Armenian's bottom. We have survived three thousand years and seen many empires to bed, so the mercenary gutter press is not going to stop the course of History, nor rewrite it. As for me, I shall be saving over U$ 200 per year.

Yours never,
Armen Kouyoumdjian