YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


MEO DECISION ON “ARAVOT” ARTICLE THAT BECAME A COURT TRIAL SUBJECT

On October 31 Media Ethics Observatory rendered an expert judgment on the article
“If Your Neighbor is a Policeman”, published in ”Aravot” daily on June 25, 2008.
As it has been reported, the article became a subject of a court trial between
“Aravot” and Arthur Ghevondian, RA police officer, who demanded to induce publishing
a refutation of the information which, in his opinion, discredits his honor
and reputation. During the hearings starting on October 21 in the Civil Court
of Yerevan the defendant motioned that the plaintiff point out specific words
or expressions in the piece considered as discrediting his honor and reputation
(see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 17-23, 2008). On October
22 Arthur Ghevondian provided the necessary clarifications. On October 24 the
author of the piece, “Aravot” Correspondent Ruzan Minasian, in her turn, applied
to MEO to receive an expert judgment on the article.

Analyzing the piece “If Your Neighbor is a Policeman”, MEO concluded that “there
are no obvious violations of Code of Conduct and of international standards”.
At the same time, MEO judgment stressed, one phrase arose some doubt: “(…)
Ghevondian, making use of his police connections (…)”, which, according to
the author of the article, is based on witness evidence, but as it was not followed
by an appropriate reference, it was perceived as the author’s words. Besides,
the expressions disputed by the plaintiff as “data discrediting his honour and
reputation” and “factual inaccuracies”, in the opinion of MEO, “are not facts
but conclusions or evaluating opinions, based on the facts containing in the
article”. The judgment stresses that neither the truth of this conclusions nor
their agreement to reality can be proved, and brings one of the clauses of the
decision of European Court on Human Rights on the case of “Lingens vs. Austria”
as an example.

The MEO judgment also states that, “Some acute expressions are also used in
the article, which reflect the stereotypes rooted in the society, but they either
cannot be viewed as an insult from the point of view of professional journalist
ethics.”

Media Ethics Observatory was formed on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian
media who supported the YPC self-regulation initiative (see YPC Weekly Newsletter,
March 9-15, 2007). Its mission consists in considering the complaints-appeals
regarding the violation of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and
giving its opinion on them. Currently the Code of Conduct and its addendum,
the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles, are signed by
heads of 31 media. The initiative is also supported by 8 journalistic associations.