On November 5, thirty Armenian NGOs, including Yerevan Press Club, “Asparez”, Journalists’ Club, “EcoLur”, Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, issued a statement condemning court decision to dismiss the lawsuit disputing the homophobic piece by the Chief Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper.
As we have reported, on October 30 the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan dismissed defamation suit of 16 NGO representatives versus the founder of “Iravunk” newspaper, “Iravunk” Media LLC, and the newspaper Chief Editor Hovhannes Galajian. The reason for the class action was the piece by Hovhannes Galajian “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 court ruling caused public outcry. It was argued that the court decision may have been influenced by the fact that a few days before the promulgation of the ruling, RA President Serzh Sargsian honored Hayk Babukhanian, Chair of “Iravunk” Editorial Board and MP from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, and “Iravunk” Chief Editor Hovhannes Galajian with Medals, on 25th anniversary of the newspaper (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 27 – November 2, 2014).
The authors of the statement stressed that they find unacceptable the hate speech and calls for discrimination, along with inappropriate reactions of Armenian judiciary to it. With this decision the court puts at risk citizens’ safety and privacy, triggering more dangerous forms of discrimination in the future, the statement emphasized.
“We are convinced that such attitude toward citizens, which is being supported at the state level, creates an atmosphere of impunity and a platform for more severe forms of hate crimes,” the statement reads. The representatives of thirty NGOs noted that Hayk Babukhanian, while being present at court hearings, was insisting that the disputed statements by “Iravunk” were legal. Moreover, awarding Hayk Babukhanian at the highest state level “gives green light to spread of opinions causing segregation and divide in the society”.
The authors of the statement demanded the Armenian authorities to:
– condemn calls for discrimination and hate speech by high-rank state officials and other citizens, disseminated by media or other sources;
– ensure fair, objective and comprehensive trial of hate cases;
– ensure the security and privacy of sixteen plaintiffs targeted by this case, as well as protect their rights to be free from discrimination and violence.