In 2013, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) conducted a monitoring of libel and insult cases against the media. The monitoring was made possible with the support of Counterpart International-Armenia. A similar study had been conducted in 2012 as well. The purpose of the study was to follow the developments in court practices since May 18, 2010, when Articles 135 and 136 of the RA Criminal Code were repealed and the law NO-970-N was passed to amend Article 18 of the RA Civil Code (“Protection of Honor, Dignity and Business Reputation”) and to add a new Article 1087.1 that defined the procedures and conditions for providing compensation for damages to one’s honor, dignity or business reputation. The purpose of these amendments was to decriminalize insult and libel while ensuring protection of one’s honor and dignity.
During the monitoring, we have examined the content of judicial decisions, statistical data and the dynamics of lawsuit numbers after the RA Constitutional Court decision SDO-997 of November 15, 2011 and two key Court of Cassation decisions in 2012.
The RA courts have received 97 civil lawsuits against media on libel and insult since decriminalization and until December 31, 2013. 17 cases were instigated in 2010, 37 in 2011, 17 in 2012 and 26 in 2013, of which 16 in the first half of the year and 10 in the second half.
CPFE examined the libel and insult cases against the media that were heard in courts of different levels throughout 2013, from January 1 to December 31. Monitoring covered 53 cases (including 27 that were initiated in the previous years but continued into 2013, and 26 cases initiated in 2013). The general characteristics of the 53 monitored cases are as follows:
- Number of cases initiated in 2010-2012 and fully completed in 2013 – 22;
- Number of cases initiated in 2010-2012, on the merits of which there is at least one judicial decision – 4. Three of them were analyzed by us, but the other one wasn’t because it was overturned and no new judicial decision on the merits of the case was adopted in 2013;
- Number of cases initiated in 2010-2012 and still pending, on the merits of which there has been no judicial decision – 1 (suspended);
- The total number of cases initiated in 2013 – 26, of which 4 are fully completed, 8 have one or more judicial decisions, 14 are still ongoing and there has been no judicial decisions on them yet.
On 37 of the 53 monitored cases, the courts have announced one or more judicial decisions, and these 37 cases have been analyzed by the CPFE experts. In 28 of the analyzed cases, media organizations were the respondents. In 9 cases, the media was involved as a third party without its own claim.