YPC Weekly Newsletter

2012


CONCLUSION OF INFORMATION DISPUTES COUNCIL REGARDING PRECEDENT DECISION ON DEFAMATION IN FACEBOOK

On September 7 the Information Disputes Council rendered an expert conclusion on the ruling of court of general jurisdiction of Ajapnyak and Davitashen administrative districts of Yerevan on the suit of Daniel Ionnisian, Bayandur Poghosian and Hasmik Simonian versus “Mek Azg” faction of organizations.

The reason of the suit on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation was the information about Daniel Ionnisian, Bayandur Poghosian and Hasmik Simonian, published on December 28, 2011 on the Facebook page of “Mek Azg”. The plaintiffs assessed the information as libel and insult. On January 31, 2012 the plaintiffs addressed to court of general jurisdiction, demanding public apologies, publication of a refutation, as well as a compensation of 10,050 AMD (about $ 25) from which 50 AMD – as moral loss compensation and 10,000 AMD – court expenses. On June 28 the court partially secured the suit, obliging “Mek Azg” to bring public apologies to Daniel Ionnisian and Bayandur Poghosian on its Facebook page and pay off to each 10 AMD as moral loss compensation. The court rejected all the other demands. 

In its conclusion the Information Disputes Council emphasized that this is the first case on dissemination of information through social network in the Armenian court practice and that the court ruling has a precedent value. IDC welcomed the court’s position, which had stated that the information disseminated through social network, in terms of both legal and social consequences, is “available to all” and is public. Amongst statements under question, the court has considered defamatory only the words "fool" and "ideological bastard". The court’s assessment was based on its inner conviction. Taking this into account, IDC abstained from assessing whether the statements were insulting and defamatory in this context. The court found the other disputed statements neither insulting nor defamatory, given their abstract nature. At the same time, the court highlighted that dissemination of information on the belonging to a party or to a nation, defending someone, holding ideas, even if this information does not correspondent to reality, cannot damage a person’s honor, dignity or business reputation. According to IDC, this position ensures wide scopes of political speech. The expert conclusion also stressed the reasonable approach of the court regarding the size of material compensation.

Considering the precedent value of the present case and that it is the first one concerning the right to free expression on Internet, IDC finds that it is time for broad discussions on issues pertaining to the adoption and application of self-regulation norms on Armenian Internet, and invites all active users to debate.

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