On June 26 the season’s last program of “E-Club” weekly cycle went on the online broadcast of “A1+” TV company (www.a1plus.am). The “E-Club” was produced by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with “A1+” TV under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.
The program was devoted to the European Football Championship, being held in Poland and Ukraine. Particularly, “E-Club” presented popular Armenian football websites, including www.armfootball.am, Euro-2012 photo galleries, online sports betting. The news bloc told about the Google initiative to join forces with linguists for saving endangered languages, about the Armenian translation of the mobile version of “Odnoklassniki” social network. The ratings of online sources and headlines of last week were presented by Artur Nazarian, Managing Editor of armsport.am. The web sources’ top list was headed by armsport.am, while the most popular topic was the appointment of Hrachya Rostomian as RA Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs.
On June 26 Information Disputes Council released an expert conclusion on the April 27, 2012 ruling of RA Court of Cassation regarding the litigation of Dr. Tatul Manaserian, former Advisor to RA National Assembly Chairman, versus the founder of “Zhamanak” daily, “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC. The missions of the Council, established on May 1, 2011, list preparation and release of advisory expert conclusions on court litigations regarding libel and insult, protection of private life and freedom of information, as well as providing consultations to the Armenian legislative and executive authorities, local self-government bodies and citizens (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 29 - May 5, 2011).
As it has been reported, on October 29, 2010 Tatul Manaserian contested at the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan the piece “Criminal Proceedings versus the Advisor to NA Chairman?” published in “Zhamanak” on September 29, 2010. The plaintiff demanded to publish a refutation and pay off 2,5 million AMD (about $ 6,800), from which 2 million - as a compensation for the damage caused by libel, while the 500,000 - court expenses. On September 20, 2011 the court partially secured the suit, binding the founder of “Zhamanak” to publish a refutation and pay off the plaintiff 510,000 AMD (300,000 - compensation for moral loss, 200,000 - court expenses, and 10,000 - state duty for filing the court). The “Zhamanak” founder appealed this decision at RA Civil Court of Appeal, which revoked it on December 15, 2011. On January 18, 2012 “Zhamanak” founder addressed the RA Court of Cassation, which on April 27 upheld the rulings of the lower court instances. The April 27, 2012 ruling of Court of Cassation also provided commentaries on Article 1087.1 of RA Civil Code (“Order and Conditions of Compensation of Damage to the Honor, Dignity or Business Reputation”) and definitions of the notions of the Article. Pursuant to the Court of Cassation’s mission, these commentaries will contribute to the uniform court interpretation of the Civil Code provisions prescribing liability for libel and insult (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 25-31, 2012).
By welcoming this precedent ruling, the Council also expressed concern regarding the interpretation of the notion of “source of information”. The Council particularly stressed that even though in the case of Tatul Manaserian versus “Zhamanak” founder, the daily disclosed the name of the person, who provided the information, the Court of Cassation found that the given person could not be considered as a “source of information” - pursuant to its interpretation of this notion. As a result, even if the received information was reproduced word by word and in good faith, the one, who has disseminated it, cannot be relieved of liability.
Likewise the Court introduces the concepts of proper and improper sources, thus restricting the scope of the sources that the media could make use of, the Council stressed. Such an approach particularly contradicts the Recommendation No.R (2000)7 of the Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe “On the Right of Journalists Not to Disclose Their Sources of Information”, according to which the source of information “means any person who provides information to a journalist”. The same Recommendation notes that journalists may receive their information from all kinds of sources. Therefore, a wide interpretation of this term is necessary in national legislation and practice.
The Council on Information Disputes emphasized the necessity to revise the commentaries of the Court of Cassation regarding the “source of information”.
The full expert conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.
On June 22 upon RA President Serzh Sargsian’s order Sargis Muradkhanian was appointed as a member of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company for six-year term. As it has been reported, the competition for filling the vacant position at PTRC Council was announced on June 6. According to the competition commission’s information, released on June 16, three candidates had claimed for this seat, including Sargis Muradkhanian (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 15-21, 2012).
The official information on the appointment of Sargis Muradkhanian (“Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” daily, June 23, 2012) also presents his biography, according to which, since 2004 he is the Deputy Chairman of “National Unity” party. In this same capacity, Sargis Muradkhanian appears in the “National Unity” Presidium, party’s managing body, presented on the party’s website http://www.amiab.am/hy/structure/presidium.html. Meanwhile, according to Point 5 of Article 27 of RA Law “On Television and Radio”, members of governing bodies of political parties are ineligible for the position of PTRC Council member. Moreover, Point 6 of Article 29 of the Broadcast Law prescribes that the information on the appointment of PTRC Council member by RA President should be attended with due justification and should be published in media. Nevertheless, in the abovementioned official information, published in “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” on June 23, 2012, there is no “due justification”.
One has to state again that the principle and practice of forming the Council of Public TV and Radio Company, as well as the managing of PTRC, have so much discredited itselves that the so-called “competitions” for filling the vacant position in this body are not treated seriously by anyone.
On June 22 court of general jurisdiction of Achapnyak and Davitashen administrative districts of Yerevan held preliminary session on the suit of attorney Murad Asrian versus the founder of News.am online agency, “Media Consult” LLC. The reason for going to law became the article “Claim against Independent Media Outlet Groundless”, published in News.am on February 4, 2011. The piece contained critics about Murad Asrian, who represented the interests of “Arrhythmic-Cardiological Center of Armenia” LLC in another lawsuit versus News.am. Particularly, the piece reported that the attorney had indicated the improper respondent in the suit (see details in “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia” Yerevan Press Club report for 2011 at http://ypc.am/about_freedom/ln/eng). Murad Asrian demanded to bind News.am founder to provide him with a right to reply, and compensate the damage for libel with 2 million AMD (about $ 4,800). The preliminary hearings on the case started on April 19, 2012.
At the June 22 session, the demands of the suit were amended. The claim for financial compensation for moral damage remained the same, however the plaintiff specified that he demands 1 million AMD for libel and 1 million - for insult.
The next court session will take place on July 13.
“Hraparak” daily received the ruling of RA Court of Cassation on the case of lawyer Artur Grigorian versus “Hraparak” founder, “Hraparak Oratert” LLC. As it has been reported, Artur Grigorian had contested at court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan the readers comments to the “Hraparak” article, “Citizens, Are They Victims of Disloyal Advocates?”, published on August 10, 2011 and stored on www.hraparak.am. In the readers’ comments Artur Grigorian had counted six wordings that discredited his honor and dignity, and evaluated the moral damage for each of them by 3 million AMD. Thus, the overall amount of financial claims to the newspaper made 18 mln AMD (about $ 47,000). On March 7, 2012 court of general jurisdiction revoked the suit as unjustified, obliging to extract from Artur Grigorian the state duty of 360,000 AMD - in proportion to the financial claims. The ruling, particularly, stressed that “Hraparak” had no intentions to slander and insult Artur Grigorian; the readers had left the comments on the website, moreover they were deleted upon the plaintiff’s demand (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012). On April 5, 2012 the lawyer contested the ruling at RA Civil Court of Appeal. On April 16, the appeal was revoked. On May 3, Artur Grigorian addressed to the RA Court of Cassation.
On June 6 the Court of Cassation upheld the ruling of the second court jurisdiction.
On June 22 Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) received the ruling of RA Court of Cassation on the complaint of RA Ministry of Health regarding the April 4, 2012 ruling of RA Administrative Court of Appeal. As it has been reported, on February 11, 2011 CPFE inquired the Ministry of Health information about journalists, who had been accredited or refused of accreditation. Not receiving an answer, on March 25, 2011 CPFE addressed the court, demanding to hold the actions of the Ministry unlawful and bind it with replying to the inquiry (later on, the second claim was lifted, since the respondent had provided with the requested information). On November 30, 2011 RA Administrative Court secured the suit, holding the actions of the Ministry unlawful (see details in “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia” Yerevan Press Club report for 2011 at http://ypc.am/about_freedom/ln/eng). The Ministry had contested the ruling at the Administrative Court of Appeal, which revoked the complaint on April 4, 2012. On May 2, 2012 the Ministry of Health addressed to the RA Court of Cassation.
On June 6 the Court of Cassation confirmed the ruling of the second court jurisdiction.
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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN