Judgments/Decisions 2012

MEO and IDC Joint Expert Conclusion of December 27, 2012 on the complaint of Arpi Voskanian versus www.1in.am

Background of the Issue: On December 10, 2012, Arpi Voskanian addressed a complaint to the MEO, in which she invoked that on December 6, 2012, 1in.am reprinted her poem “Political Riddle”, “without any prior notice, without her consent or any agreement on the size or form of payment”. The poem was initially published in “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily on the same day. Moreover, 1in.am reprinted the poem under its own headline, removing the original title and attaching the photo of one of the Armenian politicians. Besides, the news portal had announced a song competition on the poem’s lyrics, fixing an award of $ 1,500, the complainant stressed. Thus, Arpi Voskanian alleged that her copyrights were violated. According to the complainant, she had requested the Chief Editor of the news portal Arman Babajanian to remove the poem from the website, cancel the song competition and compensate her losses. However, her request was denied, moreover, “the Editor did not even deign to reply her in person”.

Since the complaint touched upon both professional ethics and legal matters, the MEO and the Information Disputes Council (IDC) held a joint session on December 27, 2012 and adopted a joint expert conclusion.

The conclusion stressed that Point 2.4 of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives requires “to respect copyright, to preclude plagiarism, and to mention the sources whenever quoting or making reprints”. However, this is a minimum requirement for the journalistic materials, since the protection of copyright presumes other obligations, as well. Particularly, a creative work falls under the protection of the RA Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. For the lawful usage of the creative work, not only a reference to the source, but also the author’s consent is required. From this perspective, the MEO stated that the reprinting of Arpi Voskanian’s poem by 1in.am, even though made with a reference to the source, but without securing the author’s consent, violated the norms of journalistic ethics.

As regards the legal aspect of the case, the conclusion stressed that the matter of the dispute is a creative work. Therefore, the author of the work is entitled to some material and non-material rights under the same Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. Particularly, the author has the right of protecting his/her work from distortions and modifications by third party, and may prohibit the third party to reprint or disseminate the work in any other forms. Proceeding from the above, 1in.am obviously violated the material and non-material rights of the author. Besides, the announcing of a song competition and monetary award may be considered in some cases as interference to the material interests of the author (Article 23 of the Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”), with all the deriving legal effects.

The MEO and IDC called upon the parties of the conflict, Arpi Voskanian and 1in.am, to settle the dispute out-off court. At the same time, they recommended 1in.am to show willingness to listen to Arpi Voskanian and satisfy her demands, as far as possible (2012թ. դեկտեմբերի 27-ի համատեղ փորձագիտական եզրակացությունը).

MEO Expert Judgment of October 9, 2012 on the complaint of Shahen Khachatrian, Director of “Kankor” medical center, regarding some stories of “Horizon” news program of “Shant” TV company.

MEO and IDC Joint Expert Conclusion of October 1, 2012 on the complaint of Anahit Bakhshian versus “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” newspaper

Background of the Issue: Anahit Bakhshian, Deputy Director of the National Education Institute, addressed a complaint to the MEO regarding the articles published on the website of “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” newspaper: “Benzin Rubo and Anahit Bakhshian” (May 4, 2012), “ ‘Heritage’s’ Conspirator” (June 15, 2012) and “Who Are Those Shrunk into Corner?” (July 5, 2012). According to Anahit Bakhshian, the above listed articles contained insulting and libelous statements about her.

Since the complaint touched upon both professional ethics and legal matters, the MEO and the Information Disputes Council came up with a joint expert conclusion.

The conclusion noted that since Anahit Bakhshian had not requested a reply or a refutation from “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” newspaper, it would have been reasonable if she made use of this right.

As regards the compliance of disputed articles to ethical norms, the MEO and the IDC held violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives in all three of them. Thus, the articles presented some facts about Anahit Bakhshian. Moreover, two of these articles referred to anonymous sources that quoted some statements allegedly made by Anahit Bakhshian. At the same time, the newspaper did not make any efforts to get some comments from Anahit Bakhshian herself. In this regard, Article 1.1 of the Code stresses: “Prior to publishing, to check the accuracy of information from any source, not to conceal and not to distort facts (…)”. Article 1.2 highlights the need to mention about the inability of verifying facts for an information of public significance, and Article 1.3 obliges the media “to rely on accurate facts when making analysis and comment”. Besides, from a journalistic ethics perspective it is not acceptable that the articles used “circulating rumors” as source of information. This contradicts the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Code, “Integrity in Relations with Sources of Information”, the conclusion pointed out.

As regards the legal analysis of the disputed articles, the conclusion stressed that since the limits of critics towards political figures are wider, than in case of private ones, there is an increased level of protection of articles that are of public interest (until recently Anahit Bakhshian was deputy of RA National Assembly). In this sense, the information, published in the “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” articles of June 15 and July 5, 2012, “is not of a discrediting nature and even if it turns out that the information is not accurate, the articles cannot be assessed as defamatory”. Meanwhile, the MEO and IDC found that the May 4, 2012 article contained discrediting information, and thus the media should have proved its accuracy.

In the end, the MEO and IDC reminded that courts should be a last resort, and one should seek there remedies when all the other measures are exhausted (2012թ. հոկտեմբերի 1-ի համատեղ փորձագիտական եզրակացությունը).

MEO Expert Judgment of February 17, 2012 regarding the complaint of Anna Simonian on a photo story by Gagik Shamshian “Reportedly, The 38-Years Old Young Man Shot Himself Death”, placed on “Aravot” daily website – www.aravot.am on February 7, 2012.