YPC Weekly Newsletter

2012


COURT CHRONICLES OF SUMMER-2012

ON SEPTEMBER 4 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit of Yuri Mnatsakanian versus National Institute of Health named after Academician Suren Avdalbekian and Vigen Shahinian, Head of the Institute’s Administration. The suit disputed the article “40-100 Employees of the National Institute of Health Care Will Join the Ranks of Unemployed”, published in News.am on December 26, 2011. The founder of the news agency, “News.am” LLC, was involved in the case as a third party. The plaintiff demanded from the respondent to make public apologies, compensate the moral damage, caused by insult, and pay off the court expenses. The suit was taken into consideration on January 20, 2012, the hearings started on April 5.

ON AUGUST 29 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit of Artur Sakunts, Head of Vanadzor branch of Helsinki Citizens Assembly, versus Ruben Hayrapetian, President of the Football Federation of Armenia. The Public Television of Armenia appeared in the case as a third party. The matter of the suit on the protection of honor and dignity was the statement made by the Football Federation’s President on May 26, 2012 on the air of the sport program “Extra Time” of PTA First Channel. Artur Sakunts assessed this statement as an insult. The plaintiff demanded to bind Ruben Hayrapetian with bringing public apologies and paying off 10 AMD as a compensation of moral loss. The suit was taken into consideration on June 22, the hearings started on July 25.

ON AUGUST 29 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan started hearing the suit of Mikhail Andreasian, former military pilot, Head of “Armavia” Air Company’s Headquarters, versus the founder of “Novoye Vremya” newspaper, “Novoye Vremya Newspaper’s Editorial Office” LLC. The suit on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation contests the article “And Those Who Happened to Stay Alive…”, printed in “Novoye Vremya” on February 7, 2012. According to the plaintiff, one of the incidents of the Karabagh war, in which he also took part, was distorted in the article. The suit, containing a demand of public apologies and refutation, was lodged on June 4 and was taken into consideration on June 8. The next court session is appointed on November 1.

ON AUGUST 14 the Information Disputes Council rendered an expert conclusion on the suit of attorney Murad Asrian versus the founder of News.am online agency, “Media Consult” LLC (now – “News.am” LLC). As it has been reported, the reason for going to law was the article “Claim against Independent Media Outlet Groundless”, published in News.am on February 4, 2011. The piece contained critics about Murad Asrian, who represented the interests of “Arrhythmic-Cardiological Center of Armenia” LLC in another lawsuit versus News.am. Particularly, the piece reported that the attorney had indicated the improper respondent in the suit. Murad Asrian demanded to bind News.am founder to provide him a right to response, and compensate 2 million AMD (about $ 4,800) for the damage caused by libel and insult (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 22-28, 2012).

Information Disputes Council came to the following conclusions: since the piece obviously undermined Murad Asrian’s professional capacities, News.am could have solicited clarifications from the plaintiff, which would retain the media from making assessments about the attorney’s knowledge of law; the procedure of returning/re-accepting a lawsuit, defined by law, should not be regarded as a sign of professionalism; before applying to court it would have been reasonable for the plaintiff to determine the founder of the media, which, however, is not provided on the website of News.am that violates Point 2 of Part 1 of Article 11 of the RA Law "On Mass Communication". According to the IDC, conciliation is the most preferable solution in the case. But if the parties do not reach a conciliation, it would be rational to secure the suit partially, obliging the respondent to publish a refutation and/or response.

The full expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian and in English at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.

ON AUGUST 10 court of general jurisdiction of Shengavit administrative district of Yerevan withdrew the suit of Ruzanna Azizian, Head of Monte Melkonian School No.11 of Yerevan, versus the founder of 7or.am news portal, “Tevanyan” LLC. Ruzanna Azizian disputed the article “The Head, Classmate of Serzh Sargsian, Requires 100 Dollars from Each of the Teachers?”, published in 7or.am on April 16, 2012. The piece was based on the emails addressed to 7or.am by parents of the school’s pupils. On the next day, on April 17, under the “Refutation” rubrics 7or.am published a response, signed by Ruzanna Azizian’s attorney. However, Ruzanna Azizian went to law, demanding to oblige the respondent to refute the information discrediting her honor and dignity, bring public apologies ad pay off 400,000 AMD (about $ 960), from which 300,000 AMD as a moral loss compensation, 100,000 – expenses for attorney services. The case was taken into consideration on April 26, the hearings started on May 24.  In course of the proceedings, Ruzanna Azizian recalled the suit, which resulted in its withdrawal.

ON JULY  31 court of  general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit of Armenian Word of Life Religious Community of Christian Evangelic Church and its Head, Senior Pastor Artur Simonian versus “Iravunk Media” LLC, founder of “Iravunk-Investigation” and “Argumenti Nedeli v Armenii” weeklies.  As it has been reported, the matter of the suit became the articles and collages, published in the weeklies in October 2011. The pieces spoke negatively about the Word of Life and the Senior Pastor. The plaintiffs demanded to bind the respondent to publish a refutation and to bring apologies in both newspapers. The hearings on the case started on March 13, 2012. On May 11, 2012 the Information Disputes Council rendered an expert conclusion on the case, which particularly noted that some of the contested wordings do not have factual data, and  thus cannot be assessed as a fair comment; moreover, the general context of the articles and the continuous and persistent use of the word “sect” therein gives features of religious intolerance to the pieces (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 11-17, 2012).

On August 15, due to the declination of the suit by the general court jurisdiction, Information Disputes Council made a statement in which it highlighted: the court has not paid attention to the fact that the articles were based purely on third party public statement, and due journalistic investigation was not conducted. Although such a method of reporting does not contradict the formal requirements of the law, however it is challenging from the perspective of journalism ethics. Referring to the ECHR ruling “Pedersen and Baadsgaard vs. Denmark” of December 17, 2004, IDC finds that the court should have revealed whether the journalist had made a good-faith examination prior to publishing the disputable information or whether the journalist was not obliged to check it. Any journalist must demonstrate great cautiousness, when the reported material is associated with the social values in the society, including the freedom of religious belief, and he/she must carry out his/her professional duty of disseminating correct and impartial information, the IDC statement stresses.

The full statement and expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council are available in Armenian and in English at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.

ON JULY 30 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit of Margarita Khachatrian, Chairwoman of “Zinvor” (“Soldier”) Association of NGOs, versus “Hraparak” daily founder, “Hraparak Oratert” LLC. As it has been reported, the reason of the suit was the piece that informed about Margarita Khachatrian’s visit to one of the military units, printed in “Hraparak” on April 21, 2011. The Head of “Zinvor” demanded to refute the information published in the piece, recompense the damage, made by libel and insult of 2 million AMD (about $ 5,400) and cover the state duty for filing the court. At the final hearings of July 13, 2012 Margarita Khachatrian dropped the financial claims towards  “Hraparak” founder, demanding only to publish a refutation (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 13-19, 2012).

ON JULY 30 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan partially secured the suit of Yerevan State University and Ara Gabuzian, Head of YSU Criminal Law Department, versus “Banadzev” LLC (independent TV program and film production company) and Gyumri resident Sirekan Yeghiazarian. The matter of the suit on protection of honor, dignity and business reputation was the plot “Jurist-Violator” on a program of “Akanates” (“Eyewitness”) TV cycle, broadcast on the air of First Channel of Public Television of Armenia on May 28, 2011(the cycle was produced by “Banadzev” LLC for PTA First Channel). In the plot, Sirekan Yeghiazarian, applicant of graduate studies of YSU Law Faculty, told about his attempt to appeal the unsatisfactory grade at the YSU and RA Ministry of Education and Science. The story was supported by the comments of legal expert Sona Harutiunian. The plaintiffs demanded “Banadzev” LLC, Sirekan Yeghiazarian and Sona Harutiunian to bring public apologies, and also to oblige the first two to refute the untrue information in the same program. Besides, since the cooperation of “Banadzev” with the PTA First Channel has ended, the apologies and refutation should be voiced on a program of the First Channel, while the court ruling on the case should be stored on http://akanates.banadzev.com. The hearings on the case started on February 29, 2012 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012). At the July 30 session the court secured all the demands, revoking only the claims towards Sona Harutiunian. Besides, the court obliged the respondents to make apologies and refutation  not only on the abovementioned media, but also on YouTube.

On September 5 the Information Disputes Council rendered an expert conclusion on this case. According to the IDC, the contested plot violated the principles of pluralism of opinions and balanced information. Besides, even before going to court the parties had agreed about the day and time of publishing the refutation, however, not only the date was violated but also the published refutation text was not in line with the requirements of Article 8 of RA Law “On Mass Communication”. This became the reason of the suit. The conclusion also welcomes the absence of financial claims by the plaintiff – not only in this case but also in defamation disputes in general.

The full expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian and in English at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.

ON JULY 26 the Information Disputes Council rendered an expert conclusion on the suit of construction company “Glendale Hills” versus the founder and publisher of “Zhamanak” daily, “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC. As it has been reported, the reason for addressing the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan was the article “‘Glendale Hills’ Offered 1000 Dollars for Silence”, published in “Zhamanak” on August 26, 2010. “Glendale Hills” demanded from “Zhamanak” founder to refute the information as contained in the piece that discredited its business reputation, compensate the damage caused by defamation of 2 million AMD (about $ 5,400) and cover the court expenses of 500,000 AMD. On January 30, 2012 the court partially secured the suit, obliging “Zhamanak” founder to publish a refutation and pay off 510,000 AMD (about $ 1,400): 200,000 – compensation for damage caused by libel, 300,000 – court expenses; 10,000 – state duty for filing the court. Founder of “Zhamanak” contested this ruling at Civil Court of Appeal, which revoked it on June 14 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 15-21, 2012). On August 1 RA Court of Cassation upheld the decisions of the lower court jurisdictions.

Information Disputes Council particularly came to the following conclusions: even though the contested information was justified by the public significance of the theme, it was not presented in good faith and balanced; stemming from the public interest towards the issue, it would be appropriate for the court to observe what measures the media had undertaken for revealing the truthfulness and validity of the information, and whether the article was premeditated; publishing a refutation would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage.

The full expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.

ON JULY 25 RA Court of Cassation upheld the decisions of the lower court jurisdictions on the suit of Hayk Babukhanian, Chairman of the Editorial Board of “Iravunk” newspaper, and “Iravunk” founder, “Iravunk Media” LLC, versus founder of Report.am news portal, “Khmbagir” LLC, and the portal’s observer Edik Andreasian. As it has been reported, the reason for going to law became the September 1, 2010 piece of Report.am “The Right of ‘Iravunk’ on the Edge of Hayk Babukhanian’s Sword”. The plaintiffs demanded to publish a refutation and exact from each respondent 3 million AMD (about $ 8,000) as moral damage compensation, caused by libel and insult. On February 27, 2012 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit, binding the plaintiffs to pay the state duty for filing the court of 236,000 AMD in proportion to financial claims. On May 31 RA Civil Court of Appeal held the plaintiffs’ complaint unjustified and bound them to pay off the state duty for filing the Court of Appeal in the amount of 390,000 AMD (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 1-7, 2012).

ON JULY 24 court of general jurisdiction of Gegharquniq region once again revoked the complaint of Vladimir Baghdasarian, priest of the Sevan community of “Unity” Church of Armenian Evangelical Christians, regarding the denial of Sevan Department of RA Police to institute criminal proceedings versus Arpi Sukiasian,  correspondent of “Shant” TV company, and its cameraman Eduard Petrosian. As it has been reported, on November 10, 2010 the shooting team of “Shant” TV company, which was on duty in Sevan, entered a building that had no signs, and found out that it was the place of gathering of the abovementioned religious organization (at the same time one of the floors of the building was privately owned). When Vladimir Baghdasarian saw that the journalists were shooting, he demanded the cameraman to turn off the video and leave the building, and then he hit the cameraman on his face. On December 24, 2010 criminal proceedings were instituted versus Vladimir Baghdasarian. Right after the incident Vladimir Baghdasarian, in his turn, brought a communication to the police accusing Arpi Sukiasian and Eduard Petrosian in illegal incursion into property (under Article 147 of RA Criminal Code, “Violation of inviolability of domicile”). On February 17, 2011 the Sevan Department of RA Police denied to institute criminal proceedings versus the journalists of “Shant” under the absence of corpus delicti. Vladimir Baghdasarian appealed both the police’s decision at the court of general jurisdiction of Gegharquniq region. The appeal was revoked on July 13. On the same day the same court found the priest guilty with charges of Part 1 of Article 164 of RA Criminal Code (“Impeding of legitimate professional activities of a journalist”) and imposed a fine of 200,000 AMD (about $ 500). At the same time, the court pardoned the priest and exempted him from paying the fine. Vladimir Baghdasarian appealed at the second court jurisdiction both his accusatory verdict, as well as the court decision on revoking the appeal on the non-institution of criminal proceedings versus “Shant” journalists. On December 12 RA Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the decisions of the general jurisdiction court on both of the cases (see details in “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia” Yerevan Press Club report for 2011 at http://ypc.am/about_freedom/ln/eng). On June 8, 2012 RA Court of Cassation annulled the decisions of lower court jurisdictions on revoking the appeal on the non-institution of criminal proceedings versus “Shant” journalists and addressed the case to the same court for a new consideration. The ruling of the Court of Cassation was based on the violation of procedural norms, made during the litigation. Earlier, on February 17, 2012 the Court of Cassation had upheld the verdict against Vladimir Baghdasarian on the charges of impeding the legitimate professional activities of a journalist.