On June 17, the Information Disputes Council (IDC) released an opinion on the court ruling upon the lawsuit of “Ijevan Road Construction and Exploitation” CJSC versus the founder of “Ijevan” TV channel, “Ijevan Studio” LLC, and the TV’s correspondent (now – Director) Naira Khachikian.
As we have reported, on December 12, 2011 the Court of General Jurisdiction of Tavush region took into consideration the suit of the road construction company contesting a critical TV story about the company. The piece was aired on “Ijevan” TV on June 21, 2011 (it was also broadcast by Second Armenian TV Channel and “Yerkir Media” TV channel). The plaintiff demanded to bring apologies, pay off 3 mln 264 thousand AMD (about $ 8,600), from which 3 mln for compensating the moral damage, 200,000 – attorney fee and 64,000 – state duty. On April 27, 2012, the Court of General Jurisdiction secured the suit, obliging the respondent to compensate the damage, caused by libel, in the amount of 50,000 AMD, pay off the plaintiff’s expenses for attorney services of 20,000 and the state duty of 1,500 AMD. On May 23, 2012, the road construction company appealed this ruling. On July 4, 2012, the RA Civil Court of Appeals abolished the ruling of the court of general jurisdiction and resolved to return the case to reconsideration by the same court jurisdiction. In its October 3, 2013, opinion the IDC welcomed this approach of the Court of Appeals (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 29 – July 5, 2012 and September 28 – October 4, 2012).
On March 22, 2013, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Tavush region reconsidered the case and fully dismissed the suit of the road construction company. At the same time, the Court bound the respondents to pay the plaintiff’s cost for attorney fee of 100,000 AMD and the state duty of 40,000 AMD. The Court justified its decision reasoning that during examination of the case the circumstance of having caused damage to the business reputation of the company has not been substantiated, however the fact of libel has been proved. Nevertheless, taking into account the “financial situation of the respondents” the Court rejected the claim on remedy for libel.
According to the IDC, the Court’s position is problematic. It virtually stated that the financial situation of the respondents does not allow holding the fact of libel, since this would hamper the smooth operation of the media outlet. If the financial situation of the respondents was the only reason for which the suit was rejected, then what constrained the Court to partially secure the suit, i.e., uphold the violation of the plaintiff’s rights and apply a non-pecuniary remedy, such as publishing a refutation, the IDC noted.