September 6, 2023, Yerevan
On September 4, 2023, the Union of Informed Citizens NGO, known as the founder of Fip.am fact-checking platform, received a decision from the Compulsory Enforcement Service (CES). The decision informed them of a 1 million AMD lien placed on their organization’s property. This action was initiated based on a writ of execution issued by the Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction. The writ stemmed from a court decision on granting the plaintiff’s motion to apply a security measure for their claim in the lawsuit titled “Civil Contract party v. Union of Informed Citizens NGO”. The lawsuit was triggered by the piece “The CC uses the administrative resources of other communities to secure votes for Avinyan” published on Fip.am on July 21, 2023. The piece aimed to shed light on the party’s method of engaging the community heads of Spitak region. The role of the latter was to mobilize the Yerevan-based relatives and acquaintances of local residents, encouraging them to vote for the Civil Contract party during the upcoming Yerevan Council of Elders elections.
We, the undersigned journalistic organizations, highlight that this is not the first case where representatives of the ruling force, upon filing a lawsuit against media founders also request the court to impose a lien on the defendant’s property and/or financial resources equal to the claim amount. On May 12, 2023, we issued a Statement on a similar situation concerning the case of “Tigran Avinyan v. 168 Zham Ltd. and journalist Davit Sargsyan.”
The act of seeking security measures for a claim against media, by itself, constitutes an attempt to exert additional pressure and “settle scores” with the editorial teams – an action, which is both unacceptable and contrary to the international norms and practices. What is even more unacceptable is that courts grant these motions to place a lien on the property and financial resources of media. Such groundless decisions disrupt the smooth functioning of editorial offices. Conversely, the courts should take a firm stance against this, simultaneously countering the plaintiffs’ attempts to exploit legal procedures as a “punitive tool” against the media.
In light of the above-mentioned, we demand:
– the Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction to immediately revoke its decision to place a 1 million AMD lien on the property of Fip.am fact-checking platform founder, namely, the Union of Informed Citizens NGO, and to withdraw the writ of execution forwarded to the CES;
– the Civil Contract party to demonstrate political broad-mindedness and tolerance by refraining from pursuing the motion to secure the claim and focusing specifically on the information dispute within the legal proceedings.
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER
JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”
MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE-ARMENIA
PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB
“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO
“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO