On Monday, a group of individuals and local NGOs issued an open letter to Orange Armenia, criticizing the company for allowing a short story containing homophobic content to be selected by the 2011 Orange Book Prize jury. Signatories are asked the company to issue a statement in support of its LGBT customers and employees, as well as remove the entry from the competition.
On Tuesday, Epress.am contacted Orange Armenia for comments and receiving the following response:
“We would like to say that Orange Armenia, being a responsible company and holding the values of Orange and France Telecom, does not differentiate toward any group of people — be that based on religion, gender, race, sexual orientation or nationality. Our company is guided by these principles in recruiting employees and serving and supporting customers, and generally in its relations with all its stakeholders. Also guided by these values are our company’s employees in Armenia, as elsewhere.
“The aim of the Orange Book Prize is not to be engaged in the propaganda of this or that issue, but to stimulate interest in reading, which, we are confident, is undoubtedly an important issue for modern Armenian society, especially considering that Yerevan will become the World Book Capital next year. Though Orange creates a platform for authors, it does not always share the views expressed by the authors or the characters in their works. Receiving the observations and concerns of several organizations and individuals with respect to the story “Hours Before [Being Given] the Death Penalty” that made it to the second stage of the 2011 Orange Book Prize, we met with some of the authors of the open letter [Tuesday]. Understanding their concerns, as well as the need to raise the issue, Orange believes that perhaps holding public discussions on the subject in question will be more helpful for all than if the company tries to act as a censorship body and suspend the work’s future participation in the contest.
“As already announced, roundtables and discussions will be organized at the end of the public voting with the participation of members of the jury, authors and all those interested. The first roundtable, considering recent developments, will be dedicated to the story “Hours Before [Being Given] the Death Penalty,” among other works. Taking place during the roundtable will be not only a literary analysis of the works, but also [a discussion of] other issues raised by the participants regarding the works. The date and location of the roundtable will be forthcoming.
“Until then, beginning tomorrow [Wednesday], Orange will publish a notice on the Orange Book Prize official webpage on not sharing the views of the main character in the story and its [Orange’s] position regarding the work. If as a result of the voting, “Hours Before [Being Given] the Death Penalty” is deemed to be the winner and subject to publication, Orange will certainly take into consideration the concerns of NGOs defending human and LGBT rights and will include an explanatory text in the book on the company’s position or will advise the author to review certain sections of the work.”