On February 5, the Information Disputes Council released an opinion on the suit of businessman Khachik Khachatrian and his company “Yerevan Poultry” versus the founder of "Zhoghovurd" newspaper, "Editorial Office of ‘Zhoghovurd’ Daily" LLC, and the daily’s correspondent Sona Grigorian. As it has been reported, the reason for the suit was the article, “Famous Oligarch Fined for Selling Expired Eggs”, published by "Zhoghovurd" on December 11, 2012. On January 10, 2013, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan submitted the suit. The plaintiffs demanded from the respondents a refutation and compensation of damage, caused by libel and insult, in the amount of 3 mln AMD (about $ 7,300). Moreover, the Court partially secured the motion of the plaintiffs and put the property of “Zhoghovurd” founder and Sona Grigorian under arrest as a measure to secure the claim (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 25-31, 2013).
Taking into account that the court hearing is still at a preparatory phase (the first preliminary session is assigned on March 22, 2013, Ed. Note), the IDC abstained from expressing opinion about the merits of the case and only touched upon the abovementioned motion. According to the IDC, in the way that the Court has secured the motion, it is not deemed as interference to the freedom of the media outlet. Consequently, the newspaper’s right to receive and impart information was not violated, even though under some circumstances the ban on the media’s property may restrict its right to freedom of expression.
As far as the plaintiff’s request of monetary compensation is concerned, the IDC assessed it as excessively disproportionate. In general, the IDC finds that when submitting claims versus media and journalists the political figures should abstain from demanding pecuniary compensation: “The highest compensation award amounts demanded from journalists and media between 2010-2012 were as a rule requested by political figures, which is a fallacious practice.” Whereas, the political figures, who serve the public interest, just like the journalists, should apply other methods of legal protection – as defined by law. Meanwhile, the above-mentioned statistics prompt that very often the demands for monetary compensation awards pursues the goal of punishing the media rather than restoring a violated right, the IDC stressed.
The full opinion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian and English at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.