On June 26 Information Disputes Council released an expert conclusion on the April 27, 2012 ruling of RA Court of Cassation regarding the litigation of Dr. Tatul Manaserian, former Advisor to RA National Assembly Chairman, versus the founder of “Zhamanak” daily, “Skizb Media Kentron” 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).
As it has been reported, on October 29, 2010 Tatul Manaserian contested at the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan the piece “Criminal Proceedings versus the Advisor to NA Chairman?” published in “Zhamanak” on September 29, 2010. The plaintiff demanded to publish a refutation and pay off 2,5 million AMD (about $ 6,800), from which 2 million – as a compensation for the damage caused by libel, while the 500,000 – court expenses. On September 20, 2011 the court partially secured the suit, binding the founder of “Zhamanak” to publish a refutation and pay off the plaintiff 510,000 AMD (300,000 – compensation for moral loss, 200,000 – court expenses, and 10,000 – state duty for filing the court). The “Zhamanak” founder appealed this decision at RA Civil Court of Appeal, which revoked it on December 15, 2011. On January 18, 2012 “Zhamanak” founder addressed the RA Court of Cassation, which on April 27 upheld the rulings of the lower court instances. The April 27, 2012 ruling of Court of Cassation also provided commentaries on Article 1087.1 of RA Civil Code (“Order and Conditions of Compensation of Damage to the Honor, Dignity or Business Reputation”) and definitions of the notions of the Article. Pursuant to the Court of Cassation’s mission, these commentaries will contribute to the uniform court interpretation of the Civil Code provisions prescribing liability for libel and insult (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 25-31, 2012).
By welcoming this precedent ruling, the Council also expressed concern regarding the interpretation of the notion of “source of information”. The Council particularly stressed that even though in the case of Tatul Manaserian versus “Zhamanak” founder, the daily disclosed the name of the person, who provided the information, the Court of Cassation found that the given person could not be considered as a “source of information” – pursuant to its interpretation of this notion. As a result, even if the received information was reproduced word by word and in good faith, the one, who has disseminated it, cannot be relieved of liability.
Likewise the Court introduces the concepts of proper and improper sources, thus restricting the scope of the sources that the media could make use of, the Council stressed. Such an approach particularly contradicts the Recommendation No.R (2000)7 of the Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe “On the Right of Journalists Not to Disclose Their Sources of Information”, according to which the source of information “means any person who provides information to a journalist”. The same Recommendation notes that journalists may receive their information from all kinds of sources. Therefore, a wide interpretation of this term is necessary in national legislation and practice.
The Council on Information Disputes emphasized the necessity to revise the commentaries of the Court of Cassation regarding the “source of information”.
The full expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.