Turkey tries to censor Microsoft Encarta entry on the Armenian Genocide

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Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 * Email.anca@anca.org

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release ~ 2000-08-21
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian ~ Tel: (202) 775-1918

CNN COVERS FAILED TURKISH EFFORT TO CENSOR MICROSOFT ENCARTA'S ENTRIES ON THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

-- Moneyline Newshour Devotes Segment to Growing Controversy Over On-Line Encyclopedia Washington, DC -- CNN's Moneyline Newshour today reported on the growing controversy over recent attempts by the Turkish Government to pressure Microsoft to revise sections of their popular Encarta on-line encyclopedia to deny the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)

According to a report filed by Moneyline correspondent Steve Young, Microsoft Encarta officials had received formal protests from the Turkish Embassy urging the revision of encyclopedia entries which describe as "genocide" Ottoman Turkey's systematic killing of the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia during World War I. Microsoft Encarta officials, in turn, asked Dr. Helen Fein, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide and University of Chicago Professor Ronald Suny - experts contracted to write Encarta's entries on "genocide" and "Armenia" - to revise these sections to cast doubt on the facts of the Armenian Genocide. When Fein and Suny refused, Encarta researchers initially threatened to make the changes themselves. Later, as the controversy became increasingly public and the level of protest against Turkey's pressure increased, they reversed their decision, agreeing only to include a note that the Turkish Government denies the Armenian Genocide. A full transcript of the Moneyline segment is provided below.

The Turkish Government's pressure on Microsoft was first reported in an August 18th article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The ANCA, which learned of the issue through an advance copy of the Chronicle, circulated an action alert on August 15th calling on individuals and organizations to thank the Chronicle for breaking this story and encouraging Encarta to resist pressure to compromise its academic integrity under political or financial pressure.


Transcript of CNN Moneyline Newshour Coverage of Microsoft Encarta Controversy

CNN Moneyline Newshour
Monday, August 21, 2000 -- 6:30 p.m.
Host: Willow Bay

Willow Bay (Host): Scholars are charging that Microsoft changed an article in its digital encyclopedia to hang on to a key market. The Encarta Encyclopedia calls the death of thousands of Armenians during the late Ottoman Empire the first genocide of the 20th century.

Most historians agree. But some authors say that Encarta asked them to consider another point of view, after pressure from the Turkish government. Steve Young reports.

Steve Young (CNN reporter): 1915, the height of World War I. According to most historians, at least 600,000 to 800,000 Armenians were killed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire during massacres, or as the result of forced deportation. Now, in 2000, while most historians call it a genocide, the Turkish government complains to Microsoft about use of the word in describing the Armenian slaughter in Microsoft's Encarta Encyclopedia. The scholars say Encarta asked them to tone down their articles.

Prof. Ronald Grigor Suny (Univ. of Chicago): I said "well, what if we don't agree to these revisions?" Then Microsoft said, "Well, we own these articles and we'll just publish it with our revisions and without your name."

Prof. Helen Fein (Director of Genocide Institute): What was unacceptable was that they wanted me to insert a counter-story which would make it appear that the Armenian Genocide never occurred; that it's simply a fiction, an allegation of Armenians, which is not the case.

Steve Young: Encarta examines hundreds of complaints about its content each year, but Microsoft may have felt a special urgency about this one.

Ronald Grigor Suny: They indicated that, in fact, there have been some threats from the Turkish government to arrest Microsoft officials in Turkey and even ban Microsoft products.

Steve Young: When we asked, Microsoft denied receiving such threats and the Turkish government denied making them.

Gary Alt (Encarta, Editor in Chief): We had a controversy. We looked into it. We investigated it from all sides, and in the end, we worked with our content experts to come up with an agreeable solution that represents the truth fairly and objectively.

Steve Young: In the end the revised Encarta still refers to Armenian Genocide, but says that the Turkish government disputes there was one, adding many Western nations have no doubt. The Encarta authors believe their editors were being pressured by Microsoft management.

Helen Fein: Oh, definitely, this was a management decision. What's important here is to make clear that staff rebelled when they were convinced that this was improper pressure.

Steve Young: Microsoft now proudly points to its latest encyclopedia, claiming some competitors cast more doubt about the nature of the Armenian mass deaths than Encarta does. The authors say Microsoft, unwisely for a time, seemed ready to compromise the integrity of its product. Bottom line: historical revisionism is bad business.




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