A dangerous precedent

The decriminalization of the defamation and insult, being applied in the Armenian judicial system, became an additional tool for pressures on journalists and media. Unclear definitions in the article 1087.1 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Armenia concerning defamation and insult cause various interpretations.

Most of the claimants are past and present politicians and well-known businessmen, who causing those litigations, aim to keep silent the people who criticize them. However, the events taking place after the decriminalization of insult and defamation are still difficult to be explained in this way.

After the decriminalization of defamation and insult in the Armenian legislation more than 30 law suits were filed against media and journalists. While observing these cases our attention is drawn to the behavior of some of the defendants of the plaintiffs.

Let’s discuss the litigation between Grisha Balasanyan, the correspondent of “Hetq” Daily and Ruben Hayrapetyan, the member of the Armenian Parliament. The Court of Appeal rejected the journalist’s appeal concerning the decision of the court of general jurisdiction of the Avan and Nor Norq administrative districts. Let’s remind that the above mentioned court had rejected the journalist’s claim against Ruben Hayrapetyan, who had previously cursed him. Before that the Special Investigation Service of Armenia had rejected the demand of Grisha Balasanyan to subject Ruben Hayrapetyan to criminal responsibility. Another attorney finds that this case can be a good precedent.

As an example we have the incident between the film crew from “Shant” TV and the senior pastor of the Sevan branch of the Unity Church of Gospel Faith Christians of Armenia, Vladimir Baghdasaryan. As a result of this case, the latter was found guilty of hindrance to the legal professional activities of a journalist. During the examination of the case the attorney of the defendant declared: “The Special Investigation Service refused to file a criminal case against the Armenian parliamentary Ruben Hayrapetyan finding that there is a lack of corpus delicti. For the same reason there is no need to file a suit against Vladimir Baghdasaryan.”

This means that insulting and cursing a journalist, beating him and hindering to his work must be considered to be a normal attitude, by this justifying the person who insults and violates. Though in this case the verdict is commensurate to the behavior of the defendant, the attorney’s way of thinking is dangerous.

After a short time “Hraparak” Daily informed that it was involved in litigation as a third party. The arguing parties of the litigation are representatives of different political parties who were given an equal opportunity to make a discussion on the pages of the newspaper.

Thus, the attorney of one of the arguing parties (Paruyr Hayrikyan, the founder of “AIM” political party) filing a case against communists does not hesitate to involve the newspaper in the litigation, thus demanding to publish a disclaimer of information insulting the honor, dignity and business reputation of the party. As it turned out later the plaintiff was unaware of the claim’s content. Having a conversation with the correspondent of the daily he said: “I have no problem with you…It must be the working style of my attorney.”

As a matter of fact the infection of a bad precedent spreads quite fast even among the attorneys. Another strange claim against “Hraparak” Daily can be explained by this. This time the plaintiff is neither an oligarch nor a politician. The lawyer Artur Grigoryan considered the comments of readers of the online version of the daily (hraparak.am) to be an insult and defamation. The readers had left their comments on the article entitled “Citizens are the victims of an unconscientious attorney.” Thus, the lawyer demands a compensation of AMD 18mln for insulting his honor. The hearing of the case is scheduled on November 16.

Before that, on November 15, the Constitution al Court of Armenia will start the hearings of the claim of the Armenian Human Right Defender. He disputes the compliance of the article 1087.1 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Armenia with the articles 14, 27 and 43 of the Constitution of Armenia. It is difficult to foresee what decision the Constitutional Court will make. However, the situation is really of great concern and needs to be solved as soon as possible.

Anna Aloyan

CPFE Expert