On March 25, the Information Disputes Council released an opinion on the lawsuit of RA National Assembly deputy Tigran Urikhanian versus blogger Edgar Barseghian.
On October 26, 2012, Tigran Urikhanian was announced the “Most Stylish Political Figure of the Year” at the annual Style Screen award, organized by the Armenian-Italian holding “Amore”. Blogger Edgar Barseghian reflected upon this event with Tigran Urikhanian’s photocollage, placed on Demotivator.am. Tigran Urikhanian’s portrait is photoshoped on the half-naked body of a model. Commenting on this caricature, Edgar Barseghian mentioned that in a country, which has many unresolved problems, a member of parliament, who has to be in the front lines to fight those problems, spends time to appear stylish and to send press releases about it: "And since we are talking about style and fashion, which for me in the first place is associated with women, I created the image with a woman’s body, and I don’t think that being compared to a woman is an insult" (as cited in “NA Deputy Filed a Lawsuit versus the Blogger”, Media.am, December 25, 2012). In response to this, Tigran Urikhanian stated that he would like to hear the blogger’s opinion as to whether it is an insult, when he sees in various places his photo and photos of those close to him, edited on the half-naked bodies of models (“NA Deputy Filed a Lawsuit versus the Blogger”). On November 21, 2012, Tigran Urikhanian filed a lawsuit at the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan versus Edgar Barseghian. The plaintiff demands to bind the respondent with removing the collage from Demotivator.am, Blognews.am and social networks. The suit on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation also claims for pecuniary remedies in the amount of 1,5 million AMD (about $ 3,700): 1 mln for moral damage, caused by insult, and 500,000 – court costs. The Court hearings started on December 24, 2012. On December 27, 2012, Tigran Urikhanian made a motion to arrest the property and assets of the respondent in proportion to the financial claims – as a measure to secure the suit, as well as to put an injunction for non-publication of online materials by Edgar Barseghian, which would discredit the honor, dignity and business reputation of the plaintiff. The Court secured the demand on injunction, rejecting the motion on arrest.
The IDC opinion noted that the disputed photocollage belongs to the genre of political satire, which falls under the protection of free expression. The author of the photomontage expressed criticism with regard to the respective action of the political figure and not his personal life. According to the IDC, the personality of the respondent, who is a civic activist and carries out a public watchdog remit, is also a factor, which needs to be taken into consideration. Meanwhile, the plaintiff is a political figure who is distinguished by his wide public activity, therefore the scopes of criticism towards him are wider than towards ordinary citizens. At the same time, the IDC noted that the blogger has depicted the plaintiff’s photo in a form of a half-naked body of a model, which, according to the norms and values established in our society, is an indecent way of presenting a person publicly. With regard to the above-mentioned, the IDC found that it is necessary to demonstrate tolerance towards the means of expression chosen by the blogger.
Once again, the IDC reminded that it is desirable that the political figures refrain from monetary demands when submitting complaints on cases involving matters of public importance and debate.
The IDC also agreed with the measure of securing the suit , selected by the Court.
The full opinion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian and English at https://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.