On May 30 Information Disputes Council released a conclusion regarding the March 7, 2012 court ruling on the suit of the advocate Artur Grigorian versus “Hraparak” daily founder, “Hraparak Oratert” LLC. The missions of the Council, established on May 1, 2011, list preparation and release of advisory expert conclusions on court litigations regarding libel and insult, protection of private life and freedom of information, as well as providing consultations to the Armenian legislative and executive authorities, local self-government bodies and citizens (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 29 – May 5, 2011).
On October 20, 2011 the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan took into consideration the suit of Artur Grigorian, who had contested the readers’ comments to “Hraparak” article, “Citizens, Are They Victims of Disloyal Advocates?”, published on August 10, 2011 and stored on www.hraparak.am. In the readers’ comments Artur Grigorian had counted six wordings that discredited his honor and dignity, and evaluated the moral damage for each of them by 3 million AMD. Thus, the overall amount of financial claims to the newspaper made 18 mln AMD (about $ 47,000). The hearings on the case started on January 13, 2012. On March 7, 2012 the court revoked the suit as unjustified, resolving to bind Artur Grigorian of paying off the state duty of 360,000 AMD – in proportion to the financial claims. The court decision particularly stressed that “Hraparak” had no intentions to slander and insult Artur Grigorian; the comments were made by the readers, moreover they were deleted from the daily’s website upon the plaintiff’s demand (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012).
According to the Council, the court’s ruling contains legal positions on a number of issues, which concern the journalistic community worldwide. This regards the protection of information in case of the rapid advance of media technologies, social networks and online media.
Welcoming the court’s ruling, which has significantly enlarged the scope of protection of online media, the Council also reminded about the responsibility of such media for the contents of readers’ comments. In this regard, the Council finds that the November 15, 2011 ruling of the Constitutional Court, which contain recommendations on the application of Article 1087.1 of RA Civil Code (“Order and Conditions of Compensation of Damage to the Honor, Dignity or Business Reputation”) by judges, are equally applicable for the readers’ comments disseminated by online media.
The Council called upon online media: to moderate readers’ comments, in light of the common principles of the right to freedom of expression; to develop and place on their websites rules of moderation, to ensure their visibility for readers and provide for their clear and transparent application.
The full conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.