On June 21-25 at Arthur’s Aghveran Resort, Yerevan Press Club held seminars dealing with journalism ethics and self-regulation of alternative and traditional media. The events were organized with the assistance of Deutsche Welle Academy and were attended by experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Great Britain, representatives of media and journalistic organizations of Armenia, including the ones, which have supported the YPC initiative on establishing a media self-regulation system in Armenia. Bettina Ruigies, Project Manager for the South Caucasus Deutsche Welle Academy, and YPC President Boris Navasardian made opening remarks at the seminars.
Isabella Kurkowski, Advisor of the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told about the introduction and development of the self-regulation mechanisms in the Balkans, highlighting the experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as about the international practice of raising public awareness and promoting the media self-regulation tools. Manfred Protze, Member of the German Press Council, presented the Press Council’s practice of dealing with complaints regarding online media. His second report concerned the bounds of ethical reporting on matters of public significance and interest. Catherine Speller, Head of External Affairs at the British Press Complaints Commission, made a Skype presentation about the media self-regulation and co-regulation models in the light of the recent developments in the PCC, an independent body examining complaints against newspapers and magazines of Great Britain.
Some acute issues that concern the Armenian media community were widely discussed at the seminars. Founding partners of LegalLab law boutique Stepan Khzrtian and Narek Ashughatoyan touched upon the problems related to copyright protection in online media and possible solutions. Arman Babajanian, Chief Editor of “Zhamanak” daily, and Taguhi Tovmasian, Chief Editor of “Zhoghovurd” daily, presented their views on copyright issues in traditional media. Laura Baghdasarian, Director of “Region” Research Center, introduced the peculiarities of coverage on elections by online media and in social network, particularly in light of the recent 2012-2013 national electoral cycle. Artur Sakunts, Head of the Vanadzor Branch of Helsinki Citizens Assembly, considered the ethics of reporting on criminal litigations and investigation.
On June 21, editors of fifteen online media made a joint statement to express concern regarding the widespread practice of the gross violations of copyrights in the Internet. “The hard work of a journalist becomes the “property” of almost all the media in a matter of minutes, which often do not make any due references”, the authors of the statement stressed (hereinafter quoted from “Statement of Websites’ Editors”, published on June 21, 2013 in Aravot.am, one of the statement signatories). The editors called their colleagues to adhere to the developed rules of interaction between online media. Particularly, they proposed: to provide a hyperlink to the original source in the title or the first sentence of the reprinted piece (including video); not to reproduce the whole content of the piece so that the reader will need to refer to the original source; not to repost more than three photos and provide a hyperlink for them, preserving its logo, unless the photo is used for making demotivators.
It takes note that a month ago, on May 21, the heads of more than ten print media made a similar statement to express their concern on the increasing cases of copyright violations in the Global Web. They suggested the online media, which use their products, sign respective contracts (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 17-23, 2013).
On June 21, News.am, referring to the RA Police Press Service, reported that as a result of official investigation, Karen Movsisian, Head of the Service Department of Yerevan Police, received a reprimand for his insulting statement about journalists. “Journalism is prostitution”, Karen Movsisian wrote in Facebook, commenting the skirmish that happened on June 18 in the parliament between the MP Vardan Ayvazian and Gohar Vezirian, correspondent of “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” daily.Tweet
On June 20, the website of “Henaran” Press Club, Henaran.am, posted the statement of Yerevan Council of Elders member, Ashot Papayan, regarding the impeding of professional activities of Hakob Karapetian, correspondent of iLur.am. As we have reported, the incident with iLur.am correspondent occurred on April 23 in Yerevan, at the campaign event of the Republican Party of Armenia. The journalist was shooting on a video camera the event organizers distributing balloons to the children, when some people approached him and tried to find out who he was and what he was doing there. Then, one of the event organizers, Ashot Papayan, hit the journalist swearing at him. They took away the video camera from Hakob Karapetian, and returned it not long after, but with deleted files. The Police Major, who was present at the site of incident and did not intervene, was later imposed to disciplinary sanctions along with other representatives of law enforcement bodies. In connection with the attack against Hakob Karapetian, criminal proceedings were instituted upon Part 1 of Article 164 of RA Criminal Code, "Obstruction of legitimate professional activities of journalist " (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 19-25, 2013 and April 26 - May 2, 2013).
In his statement, Ashot Papayan, re-elected on May 6, 2013 to the Yerevan Council of Elders by the list of Republic Party of Armenia, expressed regret about the “unpleasant incident” and apologized to the journalist.
In his turn, in an interview to A1plus.am Hakob Karapetian appreciated the apologies of Ashot Papayan and the punishment imposed on the police officers for their inaction, at the same time stressing that he will be completely satisfied only when there are no such attacks against journalists at all.
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.
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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN