On June 18-19 in Aghveran the conference “Balancing Responsible Journalism and Freedom of Expression” was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club in the frames of “Promoting Freedom, Professionalism and Pluralism of the Media in the South Caucasus and Moldova” programme, co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by the CoE. The conference was attended by lawyers, specialized in defamation cases, representatives of Armenian media, journalistic organizations and state bodies, CoE experts. Lejla Dervisagic, Project Advisor of CoE Directorate of Cooperation, Carel Hofstra, Deputy Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan, and YPC President Boris Navasardian delivered an opening speech.
The first of the three panel discussions of the conference regarded the challenges and advantages of the decriminalization of Armenian legislation on defamation and insult. These issues were considered by Hovhannes Sahakian, RA National Assembly Deputy, Boyko Boev, “Article 19” human rights organization, Ara Ghazarian, “Arni Consult” law firm. The problems of the protection of the rights to freedom of expression before domestic courts in defamation/insult cases and the insights into the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights were presented by Frederic Gras, advocate specialized in defamation issues, Vahe Grigorian, Chamber of Advocates of Armenia, and Gevorg Hayrapetian, Freedom of Information Center. Media self-regulation versus judicial protection in defamation/insult cases was debated at the third panel by Philippe Voets, Belgian Press Council, Petros Ghazarian, “Kentron” TV Company, and Levon Barseghian, “Asparez” Journalists Club of Gyumri.
On June 17, on the eve of the Aghveran event, a press conference was held in Yerevan. At the meeting the European Union and Council of Europe representatives introduced the journalists to the goals and the agenda of the abovementioned EU and CoE joint programme, “Promoting Freedom, Professionalism and Pluralism of the Media in the South Caucasus and Moldova”. The Programme aims to support the development of legal and institutional guarantees for freedom of expression, higher quality journalism and a pluralistic media landscape in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, in line with Council of Europe standards and as regards both traditional and new media.