Domestic instances have been exhausted: the person who insulted and exerted pressure on the journalist, remained unpunished

On May 25, the Court of Cassation refused to take over a proceeding the complaint by Hripsime Jebejyan, reporter from “Aravot.am”, against the decisions of the court of first instance and the Appellate court, which relate to the impeding of the journalist’s professional activity.

We should remind that on May 14, 2017, on the day of elections to the Yerevan City council, at the polling station 7/46 in Malatia-Sebastia district, pressure was exerted on Hripsime Jebejyan, reporter from “Aravot.am”. Here she recorded cases of open voting. Noticing that after voting the voters show the ballot paper to Arayik Gevorgyan, committee member representing “Armenian revival” party, the journalist inquired from him why they whose the ballot paper to him specifically. Arayik Gevorgyan resented from the question saying “Are you getting me into trouble?” He started waving his hands, shouting, threatening and insulting the journalist: “If you were a boy, I would break your jaw, you son of a bitch…”

Hripsime Jebejyan turned to the police in this relation, but the filing of a criminal case against the person threatening and insulting the journalist was rejected “because of the absence of corpus delicti”. Then the journalist turned to Yerevan Malatia-Sebastia administrative districts prosecutor’s office, complaining against the decision by the police, however, the Yerevan City prosecutor’s office also rejected her.

Then with the support from the Committee to Protect freed of Expression, Hripsime Jebejyan turned to Malatia-Sebastia administrative districts court of general jurisdiction challenging the decision refusing to file a criminal case and claiming to oblige the investigating body to continue the investigation of the criminal case.

In November of 2017, the court rejected the complaint, this time based on the absence of the fact of impeding the journalist’s professional activity. It is noteworthy, that the basis for that decision was the explanation given by Arayik Gevorgyan, that he did not threaten anyone, he only argued in a loud voice and said “If you were a boy, I would break your jaw…” just respecting that there is woman standing in front of him… However, there is no word from the testimony given by the journalist, relating to how Arayik Gevorgyan behaved at the polling station.

In January of 2018, Hripsime Jebejyan’s complaint to upper instance, i.e. to the Appellate court, was also rejected. On March 29, Hripsime Jebejyan turned to the RA Court of Cassation. In June the decision by the Court of Cassation came, saying that the case was not taken over a proceeding.

Karen Tonoyan, Hripsime Jebejyan’s advocate, draws attention on an important circumstance in this case: “The problems is, that in relation to this case the law-enforcers have applied an approach, that corpus delicti is present only cases, when the impediment and compulsion are exclusively demonstrated in the physical form. Whereas, according to the materials of the case, when hearing this case in the court, the journalist testified that as a result of aggressive behavior by Arayik Gevorgyan she was scared, restrained, psychologically oppressed and was not able to continue her activity, and had to leave the polling station. This shows that Arayik Gevorgyan has impeded the journalist’s professional activity.”

According to the advocate, with the logic of the decisions made, if there was no physical contact with the journalist, i.e. she was not dragged, hit, made to stop videotaping, then there is no corpus delicti. “The mentioned approach is not based on the law, says the advocate. When saying “forcing the journalist to disseminate or refuse to disseminate information” one should understand any exertion of any kind of pressure on the victim, including psychological. We think that the courts did not give a relevant criminal-legal assessment to the act, as a result of which Hripsime Jebejyan’s rights and legal interests have been violated.”

In fact, exhausting all the domestic remedies the journalist failed to restore her violated rights. This impunity opens wide doors for similar new violations. And the law enforcement and judicial bodies, instead of sanctioning the guilty, are kind of “roofing” people like Arayik Gevorgyan. 

Committee to Protect the Freedom of Expression

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