YPC Weekly Newsletter
2014
September 1-8
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB AWARDS TRADITIONALLY HANDED OUT ON ITS ANNIVERSARY

On July 18, Yerevan Press Club celebrated its 19th anniversary at Hrazdan hotel in Yerevan, and held its Annual Award ceremony. Established in 1998, YPC Annual Award is conferred on best journalists and media organizations of Armenia.

YPC Annual Award winners for 2013-2014 are:

Nazik ARMENAKIAN, photojournalist at ArmeniaNow.com - for adding new themes and angles to Armenian photojournalism. Nazik Armenakian received the Award named after Ruben Mangasarian. The prize was handed over by the YPC Vice-President Avet Demurian.
 
Yuri MANVELIAN and Tigran KHACHATRIAN, editor and cameraman of Epress.am - for timely coverage of Ukrainian events. The prize was handed over by the Executive Director of the Media Initiatives Center, YPC Council member, Nouneh Sargsian.

"TATRON 32" ("Theater 32") production team of "Hayadaran" series aired on Public Television of Armenia - for an original view on the Armenian literary heritage. The prize was handed over by YPC Editor and YPC Council member Heriknaz Harutyunian.

THREE LAWSUITS AGAINST HOMOPHOBIC ARTICLE BY “IRAVUNK” CHIEF EDITOR

On September 4, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan started hearings on defamation lawsuit filed by “Nor Serund” (“New Generation”) NGO representatives Grigor Gevorgian, Arman Sahakian and Hovhannes Mkrtchian against the Chief Editor of "Iravunk" newspaper Hovhannes Galajian and Chairman of Editorial Board of the newspaper Hayk Babukhanian.

The reason of the lawsuit was the article of the Chief Editor of the newspaper titled “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 above mentioned representatives of “Nor Serund” were among the people who made the list (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 9-15, 2014). The lawsuit was filed on June 19 and was taken into the consideration of the court on June 24. The plaintiffs demand to publish a refutation and pay 3 million AMD (about 5,400 euros) in compensation to damage caused by libel and insult.

The homophobic piece by “Iravunk” Editor was disputed in two other lawsuits as well. Proceedings on one of them began in the same Court of General Jurisdiction on  August 21. The class action against the founder of "Iravunk", "Iravunk Media" LLC, and newspaper Chief Editor Hovhannes Galajian was filed on June 16 by representatives of 16 NGOs, and was accepted on June 18. The plaintiffs demand refutation of the defamatory information and pay compensation for the damage caused by libel and insult in the amount of 5 million AMD - about 9,000 Euros (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 23-29, 2014).

Complaint by Iranian citizen Romik Danial, who also made the "black list of traitors of the nation", was also filed on June 16 and accepted on June 20 accordingly by the same Court of General Jurisdiction. The lawsuit against “Iravunk” newspaper and its Chief Editor contains a request to refute the defamatory statements about the plaintiff. At the same time, no claims for financial compensation has been filed yet. The hearings on this case are scheduled for November 4, 2014.

PRIME MINISTER APPOINTED PRESS SECRETARY

On September 8, Gohar Poghosian was appointed the Press Secretary of RA Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. Previously, Gohar Poghosian has served at the PR Department of the RA National Assembly for several years. When Hovik Abrahamian was the speaker of the parliament, she headed that Department. Notably, the post of the Press Secretary of the Prime Minister has been vacant for the last three months.

CHRONICLES OF SUMMER

ANI GEVORGIAN CHALLENGED THE TERMINATION OF THE INVESTIGATION OF FEBRUARY 12 INCIDENT

On August 29, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan started hearings on the complaint by Ani Gevorgian, correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper. The journalist challenged the decision of the RA Special Investigation Service (SIS) to dismiss the criminal case initiated on her complaint against police officers who obstructed her journalistic activities and used force against her. In addition, the complaint challenged the denial of her appeal to Armenian Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanian, where she demands from the RA Prosecutor's Office to check on what grounds was the case against the policemen dismissed.

The incident dates back to February 12, 2014. Ani Gevorgian and Sargis Gevorgian, cameraman of  iLur.am, were detained in Yerevan downtown when covering a public campaign of the Armenian National Congress, and were taken to the police station where they were held for about four hours. Police officers seized journalists’ cameras and mistreated them. In particular, the head of Kentron Police Department of Yerevan slapped Ani Gevorgian on the face. The journalist turned to Special Investigation Service to report the crime. The statement reported three episodes: the attempt by policeman Vardan Gevorgian to forcibly take away the camera from Ani Gevorgian during the public action; the seizure of the memory card from her video camera at the police department; the actions of Artak Poghosian, the head of the Kentron Police Department, who slapped the journalist on face and seized her phone. On February 25, SIS instigated criminal proceedings under Clause 2 of Article 164 (“Impending the legitimate professional activities of a journalist by an abuse of power on part of a state official”) and by Clause 2 of Article 309 (“Abuse of power, accompanied by violence, use of weapons or special means”) of the RA Criminal Code. Notably, Ani Gevorgian has repeatedly expressed pretensions regarding the course of the investigation. On June 4, she turned to the head of SIS Vahram Shahinian with a request to prosecute the investigator who was conducting the investigation (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 2-8, 2014 and June 16-22, 2014).

Meanwhile, on June 24 the Special Investigation Service terminated the investigation of the case due to lack of evidence. Ani Gevorgian challenged this decision in the RA Prosecutor’s Office but the claim was rejected; on August 18 she turned to the court.

The court hearings of the journalist’s complaint started on August 29. The investigator from SIS in charge for the investigation on police officers case and the representative of the Prosecutor’s Office were both absent.

DANGEROUS PRECEDENT FOR MEDIA FREEDOM

On August 20, RA Criminal Court of Appeal continued the examination of the appeal by “Hraparak” daily and iLur.am against the ruling of the court of general jurisdiction which  required these media outlets to disclose the source of information, and thus, created a precedent that threatens the freedom of speech.

On May 9, 2014, “Hraparak” and iLur.am published anonymous information about a dispute that took place on one of the streets of Gyumri, on the evening of May 7, between the regional police chief, colonel Vardan Nadarian and two brothers - Artur and Rafael Aleksanians - first being a world-renowned athlete, a multiple European champion and Olympic bronze medalist of wrestling. According to that information, the chief of Shirak region police did not like that the car in which the brothers were driving had too bright headlights. Vardan Nadarian got out of his car and started to hit the brothers with the pistol grip, causing them injuries. Soon after the incident that caused a wide public outcry, including in the social media, RA Prosecutor’s Office assigned the Armenian Special Investigation Service to prepare the materials on the Gyumri incident, based on media publications. (According to “Hraparak”, later criminal proceedings were instigated under Clause 2, Article 309 “Abuse of power, accompanied by violence, use of weapons or special means”  of the RA Criminal Code.)

On June 26, the judge of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan, Gagik Khandanian, at the request of the Special Investigation Service (SIS), ruled to oblige "Hraparak" and iLur.am to disclose the source of the published information.

On July 9, the both media disputed the ruling of the Court of General Jurisdiction at the Criminal Court of Appeal. “The ruling for disclosing the sources of information was made in our (journalists) absence. We were informed about the decision via postal service. There was not even an announcement on initiation of the criminal case”, on July 10, 2014 commented “Hraparak” in its piece “You Can Silence the Journalists but Not the People”.
 
The court ruling obliging the media to disclose the sources of information was regarded by local and international experts as a dangerous precedent jeopardizing the freedom of speech. On July 22, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović expressed concern that “this ruling might have a chilling effect on media as it could thwart reporting on issues of public interest”. “The need for journalists’ professional confidentiality with public and private sources of information must be acknowledged”, noted the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Dunja Mijatović also stressed that the right of journalists to protect the identity of sources is a key principle of investigative journalism and has repeatedly been declared as a basic requirement for freedom of expression by the OSCE.

The hearings in the Criminal Court of Appeal started on July 29. The first sessions dealt with purely procedural issues (open/closed format of the hearings, possession of documents confirming their authority by the parties, etc.); hence, the Court has not started the examination of the merits of the case yet. 

COURT OF APPEAL UPHELD THE DECISION IN LITIGATION BETWEEN TWO NEWSPAPERS OF KAPAN CITY

On August 15, the RA Civil Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Syunik Region on the lawsuit of Gagik Ghahramanian, Chief Editor of  “Kapanyan Lratu” newspaper, against Samvel Aleksanian, Chief Editor of “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper. The dispute was caused by an article titled “The Outcast: A Famous Local Harlequin Again Faces the Issue of Self-Esteem”, published in “Syunyats Yerkir” on September 3, 2013. The piece criticized the activity of Gagik Ghahramanian, as the Chief Editor of “Kapanyan Lratu”. 

The lawsuit on protection of honor, dignity and business reputation was filed by Gagik Ghahramanian on October 2, and was taken into the court’s consideration on October 3, 2013. The plaintiff demanded public apologies, refutation of defamatory information and compensation of damage in the amount of 3 million AMD (about 5,500 Euros). The hearings on the case began on December 5, 2013. On April 2, 2014 the Court of General Jurisdiction of Syunik partially upheld the plaintiff’s claim and obliged Samvel Aleksanian to publish apologies to Gagik Ghahramanian in “Syunyats Yerkir” newspaper and refute the false information in the disputed article. The Court also ordered compensation of damage in the amount of 219,600 AMD (about 400 euros) by Aleksanian in favor of Ghahramanian, out of which 100,000 - for libel, 80,000 - for insult, 30,000 - for attorneys’ fees and 9,600 - for the state duty. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s demand concerning the publishing of refutation also on the website of “Syunyats Yerkir”.

On June 5, Samvel Aleksanian challenged this decision in the Civil Court of Appeal. Hearings of the case began on July 23, and on August 15, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Court of General Jurisdiction.

 “ARAVOT” DAILY IS 20 YEARS OLD

On August 1, “Aravot” daily marked its 20th anniversary since the publication of the first issue.

Yerevan Press Club congratulates colleagues on this memorable date, and wishes them further success and prosperity!

14 MINUTES PER HOUR, NOT ON AVERAGE
 
On July 3, RA Government approved draft amendments to the RA Law “On Advertising”, on its consecutive session. The draft proposes to Armenian radio and TV companies to comply with current restriction of advertising time - no more than 14 minutes per hour, not on average per day, but for each broadcasted hour strictly.

In other words, if before the amendments broadcasters could redistribute advertising time by taking advantage of so-called “quiet” hours and placing lots of advertisements during “prime time”, there will no longer be such a chance, in case the amendments are adopted by the parliament. The draft law was submitted to the National Assembly of Armenia.

“INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS” AND “ANI KOCHAR PRODUCTION”   CONCLUDED AN AMICABLE SETTLEMENT 

On July 24, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan approved the amicable agreement between the “Investigative Journalists” NGO and “Ani Kochar Production” LLC, founder of PressIdent.am.

The matter of the dispute was four pieces published on PressIdent.am without a proper referencing to their initial source - Hetq.am, online edition of “Investigative Journalists”. “Investigative Journalists” demanded to oblige the founder of PressIdent.am to remove the pieces from their website and to pay compensation in the amount of 200,000 AMD (about 350 euros). The lawsuit was filed on January 16, 2014. At the preliminary hearings, which began on June 26, representatives of “Ani Kochar Production" admitted their mistake, and the parties agreed to conclude an amicable settlement.

The amicable provides that the respondent should remove all the disputed materials from PressIdent.am, but “Investigative Journalists” abandoned all the financial claims.

DID THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES TRY TO RECRUIT THE JOURNALIST? 

On July 3, correspondent of AraratNews.am and Board member of “Heritage” oppositional party Hrayr Manukian published an audio record of a conversation with a person who introduced himself as an agent of the National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia and tried to recruit him first “on good terms”, and then - by threatening him. According to the journalist, the conversation took place on June 30, in one of the cafes of Yerevan.

On July 8, Hrayr Manukian reported the crime to RA Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanian and to RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasian. “In June 2014 Vlad Hakobian, who introduced himself as an employee of RA NSS offered me -Hrayr Manukian - to cooperate with NSS”, reads the statement of the journalist. He also noted that in response to a refusal to cooperate, Vlad Hakobian threatened with "negative consequences" for his professional and political activities. 

The threats in address of the journalist were condemned by representatives of political circles and civil society of the country.

CRIMINAL CASE INSTIGATED ON INCIDENT NEAR “KENTRON” POLICE DEPARTMENT

On July 1, Special Investigation Service (SIS) of Armenia initiated a criminal case under Clause 3, Article 164 (“Impending the legitimate professional activities of a journalist”) and Clause 2, Article 309 (“Abuse of power”) of the RA Criminal Code, on the basis of complaints filed by Ani Gevorgian, correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” newspaper, and Sargis Gevorgian, cameraman of iLur.am. This information was published on the SIS website.

As we have reported, on June 23, journalists together with dozens of people were waiting near the Kentron Police Department of Yerevan for the release of activists detained earlier that day in the city centre, for participation in a civil protest against the upcoming increase  of electricity tariffs (27 participants of the protest were detained). Standing in line, policemen started pushing the people. Journalists were among the casualties of the incident. In particular, Ani Gevorgian and Sargis Gevorgian were injured (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 23-29, 2014).

The police received complaints from other citizens as well; all the complaints were combined into one case. Ani Gevorgian and Sargis Gevorgian, as well as a number of other participants of the incident, are recognized as victims.

HIGH-RANK POLICEMAN FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES BASED ON MEDIA PUBLICATIONS

In late June-early July, a criminal case has been instigated against the Deputy Chief of Yerevan Police, colonel Valeriy Osipian, on the basis of media publications.

According to information by “FactInfo”, the Special Investigation Service of Armenia has confirmed the fact of a criminal case initiated against a senior police officer, however, refused to specify the grounds and the article of the RA Criminal Code upon which the case was instigated.

According to Armenian media, criminal proceedings against Valeriy Osipian, most probably, deal with the incident in early June in Yerevan, when a 22-year-old man had been injured in a knife-fight. After the incident the press wrote that it was the nephew of the Deputy Chief of the Yerevan Police who stabbed the young man. Later on, media reported that Valeriy Osipian was trying to “save” his relative who was put on the wanted list. For instance, according to Armenian Service of Radio Liberty,  the Deputy Chief of Yerevan Police tried to “negotiate” with the parents of another young man, so that the latter took the rap for the accident, instead of the policeman’s nephew.

OUR COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS KARINEH TER-SARGSIAN AND HASMIK BABAJANIAN PASSED AWAY

It is with a great sorrow that we inform you of the passing of two members of Yerevan Press Club, our friends and colleagues Karineh Ter-Sargsian and Hasmik Babajanian.
 
On July 8, two days before her 57th anniversary, an accident cut short the life of Karineh Ter-Sargsian, political observer of PanArmenian.net news agency.

On August 27, on the day of her 56th birthday, Hasmik Babajanian, Executive Secretary and PR Manager of "Vem" radio station, untimely passed away.

Yerevan Press Club expresses its deepest condolences to the journalistic community, family and friends of Karineh Ter-Sargsian and Hasmik Babajanian.

When reprinting or using the information above, reference to the Yerevan Press Club is required.

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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