On March 4 the RA Commercial Court satisfied the suit of HSBC-Armenia bank versus “Golos Armenii“ and “Yerkir” newspapers. This major Armenian bank had demanded the editions to refute the information disseminated on October 29, 2001 by “Noyan Tapan” news agency and published by them the next day. According to this information, HSBC-Armenia had violated the copyright of Ruben Hakobian (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 9-15, 2002).
The previously introduced proofs that the production of “Noyan Tapan” is a mass communications medium, and therefore the agency bears a responsibility for the information disseminated, did not produce the appropriate impact on the judge. According to the court decision, “Golos Armenii” and “Yerkir” have to publish a refutation and pay 8,000 drams ($14) as a state fee each.
As to the demand of charging 2,480,000 drams (over $4,000) to “Yerkir” for the damage to the business reputation of the bank made by the publication “B. Gregory Demands a Refutation”, the plaintiff had revoked it (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 23 – March 1, 2002).
As Yerevan Press Club was told by the Chief Editor of “Golos Armenii” Flora Nakhshkarian, the respondents mean to challenge the decision at the Chamber on Civil and Commercial Cases of the RA Court of Cassation.
It is still early to quit this story. But one “accomplishment” is already inscribed into the annals of Armenian jurisprudence: a precedent is created that, as we dare to suppose, has no analog in the civilized judicial practice. Following the rationale of the unprecedented decision, the following conclusion jumps: from now on the print and electronic media of Armenia will have to verify any information received from any news agency. This may come off with the local news disseminators, but what about “France Presse”, “Reuters”, “Associated Press” and others that inform about the events all over the world? This is when the necessity for the existence of news agencies per se becomes questionable. Apparently, the operations of the information sphere are for some reason unclear to judge Vardan Avanesian. It is also important to note here that the interests of HSBC-Armenia were defended in court by attorney Haik Haroutiunian, the brother of the RA Minister of Justice, who has the second decisive (after the President) vote in appointing judges.
We offer the Armenian media editors to undertake an action – to start (with one editor calling at a time) verifying with judge Avanesian the validity of information, disseminated by the local news agencies on the decision made on the suit of HSBC-Armenia versus “Golos Armenii” and “Yerkir” newspapers. The geography and the list of subjects to be inquired about at the court and other authorities may be expanded, depending on the content of the newswires. Then, perhaps, the officials will realize the absurdity of the decision taken.