On April 29, Court of General Jurisdiction of Ajapnyak and Davitashen Administrative Districts of Yerevan revoked the lawsuit of “Zhoghovurd” daily’s founder, “Editorial Office of ‘Zhoghovurd’ Newspaper” LLC, and the daily’s correspondent Sona Grigorian versus businessman Khachik Khachatrian (owner of “X-group” holding, including “Yerevan Poultry” company). “Zhoghovurd” went to law after the businessman insulted Sona Grigorian during a telephone conversation. In the December 22, 2012 article, “‘Zhoghovurd’ Daily Demands Public Apologies from Khachik Khachatrian”, the daily reported that Khachik Khachatrian called the young journalist a “prostitute” in reply to “her question, which was not that desirable for him”. The businessman also suggested the journalist publish this word. The lawsuit with demands of public apologies from the businessman was taken into consideration on December 28, 2012; the hearings started on April 3, 2013 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 15-21, 2013).
At the April 29 session, the court reasoned the revocation of the suit by the fact that a statement cannot be qualified as insult, unless it is made in public. The court also bound the plaintiffs to pay the court fees of the businessman in the amount of 100,000 AMD (about $240).
On the same day, April 29, lawyer Ara Ghazarian, member of Information Disputes Council, commented upon the above-mentioned court decision in his interview to Panorama.am, “‘Zhoghovurd’ May Set a Precedent, If It Goes to Constitutional Court”. According to Ara Ghazarian, the court could not make any other decision, since the Armenian legislation does not protect citizens from defamatory statements made in private.
The lawyer finds that Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code (“Order and Conditions of Compensation of Damage to the Honor, Dignity or Business Reputation”) and the April 27, 2012 precedent-setting ruling of the RA Court of Cassation regulate only public statements. According to the Court of Cassation’s ruling, a telephone conversation is not considered as a public statement, unless there was a third party present, or if, in similar cases, one of the parties has taken measures to exclude the possibility of a statement to be public. “People are not protected from such kind of statements, and this is unconstitutional. “Zhoghovurd” has a chance to carry the case trough the Constitutional Court, which would be very useful,” mentioned Ara Ghazarian.
On May 2, “Zhoghovurd” daily published an article “Journalists Collect Signatures”, which told about the initiative of the “GALA” TV company’s correspondent Paylak Fahradian. The journalist has called upon the parliament to make necessary legislative amendments so that “telephone conversations, which are essential for the journalistic work, including for verifying information, are not considered by courts as ‘private conversation’”. At the moment, more than 40 journalists from over 30 media upheld the initiative.
On April 30, RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasian also highlighted that it is indispensable to have legal regulation for prescribing responsibility for non-public defamatory statements. The ombudsman particularly noted that he intends to address the RA Council of Courts’ Chairmen for getting elucidation on how to interpret statements made during journalistic interviews.
It should be noted that Khachik Khachatrian, in his turn, had contested the abovementioned December 22, 2012 article of “Zhoghovurd”, by bringing a lawsuit against the founder of the daily and Sona Grigorian. The businessman demanded from the respondents a refutation, discrediting his honor, dignity and business reputation, and pecuniary remedies of 3,200,000 AMD (about $ 7,600): 3 mln for moral damage, caused by libel and insult, and 200,000 – attorney’s fees. The hearings on the case started on March 20, 2013 at the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan. The same Court is considering another suit of Khachik Khachatrian and his company "Yerevan Poultry" versus the founder of "Zhoghovurd" and Sona Grigorian. This time, the article "Famous Oligarch Fined for Selling Expired Eggs" ("Zhoghovurd", December 11, 2012) is being contested. The plaintiffs demand from the respondents a refutation and compensation of damage, caused by libel and insult, in the amount of 3 mln AMD. Besides, the Court partially secured the motion of the plaintiffs and put under arrest the property of the newspaper’s founder and Sona Grigorian as a measure to secure the suit. The hearings on the case started on March 22, 2013 (see the cases’ details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 15-21, 2013, and January 25-31, 2013).