On October 30, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan dismissed a defamation lawsuit of 16 NGO representatives versus the founder of “Iravunk” newspaper, “Iravunk Media” LLC, and the newspaper Chief Editor Hovhannes Galajian.
As we have reported, the reason for the class action was the homophobic piece by Hovhannes Galajian “They Serve the Interests of the International Homosexual Lobby: Black List of Enemies of the Nation and the State”, published in “Iravunk” on May 17, 2014. The piece presented the “black list of traitors of the nation” – “lobbyists of homosexuals, aggressively trying to impose their rules in our country”, and contained links to their Facebook pages. The plaintiffs demanded refutation of the defamatory information and compensation for the damage caused by libel and insult in the amount of 5 million AMD (about 9,000 Euros). The court hearings started on August 21. At the same time, during the trial “Iravunk” Chief Editor continued to insult the plaintiffs. The respondent’s lawyer was speaking in the same tone, stating that the author of the piece was expressing his personal opinion, which he, the lawyer, shares (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 20-26, 2014).
On October 30 the Court not only dismissed the lawsuit, but also ruled that plaintiffs have to pay 300,000 AMD (approximately 580 Euros) to reimburse lawyer fees of their opponents.
The court ruling was criticized by the journalistic community, including Armenian media. In particular, Levon Barseghian, Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists’ Club, wrote at his Facebook page: “‘Thanks to’ the court’s decision, from now on we can say whatever we like about the newspaper, its owners or advisors and then claim that it simply was our own opinion. If I follow the same logic, I can say that Ruben Nersisian (Ed. Note: the judge who made the decision) serves the interests of the international homosexual lobby and stress that this is only my personal opinion.”
In the meantime, on October 25, a few days before the court decision was announced, RA President Serzh Sargsian honored the work of “Iravunk” newspaper on their 25th anniversary and awarded the Chair of the newspaper Editorial Board Hayk Babukhanian, who is also MP from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, with Movses Khorenatsi Medal – “for important personal input in the establishment of the newspaper”. Hovhannes Galajian also received a special Medal of Appreciation – “for his input in the establishment of the newspaper, devotion and productive work of many years”.
In the interview to Epress.am one of the plaintiffs, Nvrad Margarian, stressed that the President of Armenia, in fact, awarded “Iravunk” for “hate speech and discrimination”. Nvrad Margarian has also announced their intention to appeal the ruling in a higher court.
Notably, the homophobic piece by “Iravunk” Chief Editor is disputed in two more lawsuits as well, pending before the same Court of General Jurisdiction.
P.S. On October 31, “Iravunk” commented on the court ruling in the piece titled “Court Dismissed the Lawsuit of the Lobbyists of Homosexuals Against “Iravunk” and Its Chief Editor”: “ (…) The ruling of the court reiterated that moral values are not entirely lost in our country, as there still exists front liners fighting for the traditional family, for the state, for the genuine honor – in the face of “Iravunk” newspaper, its editor H.Galajian and the CEO of the “Lev Group” law firm Levon Baghdasarian who was representing the interests of the respondent.”