YPC Weekly Newsletter

2004


LEGAL CONTRADICTION CAN RESULT IN IMPRISONMENT

On October 28 the Chairman of “Investigative Journalists” NGO Edik Baghdasarian
made an address to the Head of Investigation Division of the Police Department
of Center community of Yerevan Artavazd Ghazarian. The address voices a protest
against the involvement of Edik Baghdasarian as a witness on the case of assault
on a leader of “Intellectual Forum” Ashot Manucharian on April 22, 2004. The
resolution on this was made on September 15 by the Senior Investigator of this
Police Department Arsen Ayvazian. Having reminded that he is a journalist on
professional duty, Edik Baghdasarian notes in his address that after each publication
on the case Investigator Ayvazian summons him to interrogation and demands to
disclose the information sources. The head of “Investigative Journalists” further
informs the Head of Investigation Division about his refusal to give testimony
and to disclose information sources. “I stated this to the investigator,
too, saying I am not going to disclose any source, primarily not to endanger
the safety of these people”, Edik Baghdasarian stressed in his statement. His
refusal to appear as witness was motivated by the journalist by Article 5 of
the RA Law “On Mass Communication”, protecting the right of the journalist to
non-identification of information sources.

As YPC was told by Edik Baghdasarian, he is ready to bear responsibility for
a refusal of testimony, since the safety of the information sources is more
important for him. It should be noted that Article 339 of the RA Criminal Code
(“Refusal from Testimony”) stipulates a fine of 50-100 minimal salaries or reformatory
labor for up to a year or imprisonment for up to two months.

YPC Comment: The demand of investigative bodies to
the journalist to disclose the information sources reveals a serious legal contradiction.

On the one hand, Part 1 of Article 5 of the RA Law “On Mass Communication”
says: “Those engaged in communications activities and journalists are not obliged
to disclose information sources, but for the cases stipulated by Part 2 of this
Article”. In Part 2 of the same Article the possibility of source identification
was only provided for in case of “a court ruling on a criminal case, so as to
disclose a grave or a particularly grave crime, if the need of criminal and
legal protection of the public interests is higher that the public interest
in non-identification of information sources and the alternative ways of protecting
public interests are exhausted. In this case, upon the motion of a journalist,
a closed-door court hearing is made”.

On the other hand, Article 86 of the RA Code of Criminal Proceedings (“The
Witness”) does not provide for journalists as individuals who cannot be involved
in the case and interrogated as witnesses.

Therefore, the journalist can be imprisoned for the refusal to be a witness
– in this case to disclose the information source, the confidentiality of which
is guaranteed by the Law on the journalistic profession. This legal contradiction
has arisen as the Code of Criminal Proceedings was adopted by the Parliament
in July 1998, while the Law “On Mass Communication” was passed five years after,
in December 2003. To eliminate it, an appropriate amendment should be made into
the Code to enable the representatives of the “fourth estate” to preserve the
confidentiality of information sources.