On November 10 OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic in a letter to RA Foreign Affairs Minister Edward Nalbandian expressed concern over the growing number of libel suits filed against Armenian media, and called upon the authorities to further reform the legislation to adequately protect the media in civil defamation cases.
“I welcomed decriminalization of defamation in Armenia in May 2010 as a significant step toward ensuring a media-friendly environment. Regretfully since then, almost 30 civil defamation lawsuits have been brought against newspapers, including 11 this year,” said Dunja Mijatovic, noting that in most cases the compensation sought is out of proportion to the damage allegedly inflicted. The compensation awarded in civil libel lawsuits should be proportional to actual damages and should not lead to the closure of a media, which would result in limiting press freedom, stressed Dunja Mijatovic.
Among others, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was referring to a lawsuit filed against “Hraparak” daily by the lawyer Artur Grigorian seeking more than 34,000 Euro in damages for allegedly slanderous readers’ comments on the daily’s piece, posted on its website. On November 8 the court ordered that the newspaper’s property be seized pending a decision on the case (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 4-10, 2011).
In the letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dunja Mijatovic said that her Office is ready to assist Armenia in further reforming its media legislation and promoting freedom of the media. As an example, she referred to a training seminar organized in Yerevan on November 1 by the OSCE, to help familiarize Armenian judges with international best practices in defamation cases. “I hope this initiative will help contain the wave of libel suits filed against Armenian media”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic underlined.