Еженедельный Бюллетень ЕПК

2007


HEARING OF THE SUIT OF GYUMRI MUNICIPALITY VERSUS “GALA” TV COMPANY STARTED

On December 10 at the RA Commercial Court hearings on the suit of Gyumri municipality
versus “GALA” TV company started. The plaintiff demands to oblige the “GALA”
founder, “CHAP” LLC, to stop the use of the city TV tower and dissemble the
equipment installed there.

As it has been reported, on October 22 the owner of “CHAP” LLC Vahan Khachatrian
issued a statement regarding the attempts of various power agencies to exert
pressure on the TV channel. The document stressed the infallibility of the TV
channel’s stance and the readiness to prevent any attempt of intervention into
its editorial policy. One week after the statement a tax audit started at “CHAP”,
after which the RA State Tax Service reported the violations revealed. In particular,
this referred to the illegal use of TV tower, owned by Gyumri municipality,
by “GALA” founder. The owner of “CHAP” Vahan Khachatrian noted, on his behalf,
that the certificate of ownership of the tower was received by Gyumri municipality
only on November 5, 2007. Till that time, in 2004-2005, he had addressed various
agencies but was unable to find the tower owner. According to Vahan Khachatrian,
he operated the TV tower that had no one take care of since 2005, with a preliminary
renovation and enforcement of the transmitter. The attempts of the TV channel
to solve the problem through negotiations remained futile. On November 26 the
suit of city administration was accepted by the court (see details in YPC Weekly
Newsletter, November 30 – December
6, 2007
).

At the session of December 10 the plaintiff rejected the draft of reconciliation
agreement, proposed by “GALA” founder’s attorney. The agreement stipulated the
TV tower rental for 6 months’ time. The respondent filed a counter-claim of
mandatory establishing the right to a limited use of the TV tower (mandatory
servitude), which was declined by the court. The respondent also challenged
the judge, after which the session was adjourned. On December 11 the court reconvened
with the judge announcing the challenge refused. The respondent said that on
the same day, December 11, he had appealed at the Court of Cassation the refusal
of the Commercial Court to accept his counter-claim and made a motion to suspend
the litigation until the response is received. This motion was refused, too.
The respondent made the second challenge to the judge, and the hearings were
adjourned again – till December 13. At the session of December 13 the challenge
of the judge was refused once more. On his behalf, the respondent announced
he had appealed – this time with the higher jurisdiction body of the RA Commercial
Court – the judge’s ruling of December 10 that had rejected the counter-claim
of mandatory servitude. The founder of “GALA” also made a motion to suspend
the hearings until a response is received regarding the counter-claim. The motion
was secured, and the session adjourned.

Earlier, on December 12, about 50 residents of Gyumri established Headquarters
to protect freedom of expression and to support “GALA” TV company. On the same
day the HQ addressed the media and journalists, operating in Armenia, with an
appeal to report the large-scale actions that are undertaken against “GALA”
to deprive the TV company of air. The plans of the HQ include ensuring the challenge
to the judge, to gather signatures under a letter to Gyumri Mayor Vardan Ghukasian
demanding to give up the litigation of the dispute and to rent the city TV tower
to ”GALA” with acceptable terms. On December 13 the Committee to Protect Freedom
of Expression organized a press trip to Gyumri for journalists of several national
media. After the court session the journalists and the HQ representatives made
a march to the municipality, handing in a notice about the intention to hold
a rally to support freedom of expression and “GALA” on December 19.