Corporate responsibility is a big and often-used buzzword in America today. Most U.S. companies, large and small, have some form of a corporate responsibility program. These programs entail many things — philanthropy (both cash and in-kind donations), truth in product advertisement, good conduct by corporate employees, community outreach, and a sense that a given corporation is part and parcel of the society in which we live.
If a company breaches that responsibility, it quickly apologizes and cleans up its act — Toyota’s attempt, so far, being a good example. What happens, though, when a corporation puts its money into corporate responsibility and community outreach, but forgets the truth portion and puts the public in potential danger? Is that corporation responsible? It that corporation still a good corporate citizen?
Case in point is the venerable, albeit deeply troubled, Los Angeles Times. The perpetually financially beleaguered Los Angeles Times is about to hold its annual Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show. This is done, presumably as a community service, to augment the paper’s waning readership and advertising revenue and to raise much needed cash.
When one reserves space at a show such as the Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show, one (read that as the American public) expects that the Times performs, at least, a cursory screening process to ensure that the public is not being duped or misled and, indeed, that the newspaper is not being duped and that the safety of the public is placed before profits.
The public could not imagine being sold at a Los Angeles Times event on an exhibit for a place which in fact does not exist or that is a bona fide war zone.
The Armenian-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) and the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles (CGALA) reserved and bought exhibit space at this show. This, in and of itself, bears no scrutiny. Armenian-American organizations and the government of Armenia certainly have the right, even duty, to promote tourism and trade to and from Armenia.
However, as reported widely throughout the Armenian community’s newspapers and blogs, the AACC and CGALA also plan to exhibit and promote tourism to the “Nagorno Karabakh Republic.” While this may sound like a tourist destination to some, it is important to note that this “republic” does not exist and is not recognized by any international body or nation, including the United States and the United Nations. In fact, the region known as Nagorno Karabakh is a war zone, occupied territory, and part of the internationally recognized borders of another nation — the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan became one of the first of the Soviet republics to become independent, and was recognized by the UN, including its internationally recognized borders that also encompass Nagorno Karabakh. Soon after independence, Armenia, the only country which did not recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, claimed independence for, or unification with, Nagorno Karabakh and began a conflict with Azerbaijan in 1988 that erupted into full scale war, which was put on freeze by a cease-fire agreement in 1994. Today, this conflict remains one of the most significant frozen conflicts in the world.
This war began with the Armenian occupation of Nagorno Karabakh and led to the occupation of seven other regions of Azerbaijan. It left roughly 800,000 Azerbaijanis as refugees and/or internally displaced people. The Armenian military committed what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security termed a “crime against humanity” in Azerbaijani towns inside the Nagorno Karabakh region, such as Khojaly.
Today, Nagorno Karabakh remains a war zone, despite the United Nations Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874, and 884 all demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces from these occupied territories belonging to Azerbaijan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and other international organizations and bodies also continue to repeatedly call for restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and the return of the close to a million refugees to their own homes.
It is not shocking that given the blunt disrespect for international law by the government of Armenia (and the blind backing of these policies by Armenian-American organizations) and the repeated violations of its commitments before the international community that the AACC and the CGALA would try to pass off a war zone that is another nation’s territory as a vacation getaway.
It is, however, unconscionable that the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Times Travel and Adventure Show would be complicit in portraying Nagorno Karabakh as a vacation destination and a republic. It begs some questions: Is a corporation responsible when it allows an exhibitor at one of its own trade shows to help promote tourism, trade, or any kind of links with an actual war zone, one that is not even an internationally recognized entity? Is this corporation a good corporate citizen when it allows one of its exhibitors to promote tourism to an occupied territory where there is daily sniper and artillery fire, indeed a war zone with roughly 100,000 mines and a possibility of the resumption of war growing (according to such people as Dennis Blair, director of U.S. intelligence)?
It seems that these accepted and undisputed truths and facts have inexplicably fallen on deaf ears at the Los Angeles Times. Scores of Americans, representatives of the government of Azerbaijan, and other interested nations have tried to discuss this fact with the Los Angeles Times to, in fact, save the paper’s credibility with its readers. Alas, no action has been taken, and nary a response to letters to the publisher, Eddy Hartenstein. Perhaps Mr. Hartenstein should read the following from the United States Department of State fact sheet:
The United States does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country, and its leadership is not recognized internationally or by the United States. The United States supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
When a corporation forgets the truth and what is right, is that corporation responsible or a good corporate citizen?