It took Mikayel Amirkhanyan, the rector of Yerevan Humanities Institute, only two court sessions to realize the absence of any prospects of his claim against the weekly “Hetq” and its reporter Ani Hovhannisyan. On October 1, 2010, he withdrew the claim from the court of first instance of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan. On October 14, 2010, the decision of the court was proclaimed, according to which the proceedings are terminated.
The conflict occurred as a result of the article “Yes, I Am Engaged in Business” published on June 3 in N21 issue of the newspaper and uploaded to the website www.hetq.am on June 7, 2010. The author of the article, Ani Hovhannisyan, covered in a critical manner the situation and morals in the private higher educational institution headed by the rector. The publication contained the positions of both sides of the conflict – the head of the institute, the students and their parents.
It became obvious from the article that the rector “is engaged in business” (apparently successfully) by exploiting the labor of the students, thus violating the Labor Code. The entrance exams are a mere formality in a form of an interview, which may take place any time without any deadline. Moreover, the students who can bring other people to study in this institute receive almost official fee discounts. The graduates of the institute note that they have a course in their diploma transcript which they never took. Besides, the professional level of their lecturers has become a reason for repeated complaints of the students.
However, the rector was outraged by the critical article and, instead of admitting his mistakes and finding solutions to the problems, he had filed a defamation suit demanding retraction of the information in the article and compensation for “slandering his good name, honor and reputation”. Meanwhile, during the trial any document asked to be provided evoked a range of new questions. According to the lawyer of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Olga Safaryan, who represented the journalist in the court, there were serious reasons for tax and law-enforcement bodies to be interested in the activities of the rector of the private institute.
It seems that Mikayel Amirkhanyan realized that the farther the proceedings go, the more difficult his situation becomes. That is why, during the second session, the rector withdrew his claim, and the court could only make the relevant decision.
Thus, the conflict can be considered resolved. However, it can serve a good example for journalists and for people who do not take criticism well and try to revenge through fines and compulsory retractions. It is much easier for media representatives to defend themselves in the court, when the publication is based on reliable facts supported by documents. And fans of settling scores with journalists, before turning to courts, still need to seriously think whether to do it or not, if their hands are not clean.