5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan - Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan - Director of “ArmMedia” program



[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

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On the Court Case Based on the Lawsuit Against “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC Filed by “Glendale Hills” CJSC

July 26, 2012 Armenia, Business, Europe No Comments
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12:13, July 26, 2012

1. FACTS IN THE CASE

The 136th edition of “Zhamanak” daily, a media outlet published by “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, released on 26.08.2010 an article entitled “$1000 for silence” with the following content:

“…Sources familiar with the issue told that Gyumri representatives of Glendale Hills organization, after the self-collapse of one of the buildings built by Glendale Hills in Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri, attempted to convince the residents at any price not to inform the media about what had happened. Our source who preferred remaining unknown informed that Glendale Hills has suggested to residents 1,000 US dollars cash as well as has promised to rapidly renovate the apartment only to prevent the topic to appear in media, while in the opposite case the company has threatened not to renovate the apartment. The affected residents, however, have refused the shadow transaction with Glendale Hills.”

Glendale Hills CJSC (hereafter Plaintiff) on 23.09.2010 applied to the Nork-Marash Court of General Jurisdiction asking to oblige the “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC (hereafter Respondent) to deny the information published by Zhamanak daily damaging the Plaintiff’s business reputation and confiscate 2,000,000 AMD for the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a result of slander, as well as another 500.000 AMD as a sum paid to the lawyer.

The plaintiff has considered that the media outlet has published imaginary information that does not match reality and is a slander, i.e. going public with such facts about the Plaintiff that do not match reality and damage his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Plaintiff has claimed that the information was disseminated for the purpose of damaging the business reputation of the Plaintiff, taking into account especially the nature and the content of the information not matching reality; in particular, dissemination of such disinformation could not possibly be directed to other persons, in this case – residents or to the protection of the rights of the public or to the protection of other public interests.

The Respondent, invoking the right to case law of the European Court, has mentioned that the reporter has used the word “self-collapse” as an evaluating judgment, which has have a specific practical demonstration. During the trial the reporter in his testimony has clarified that the purpose of using the word “self-collapse”, stating that he used the word to present that the ceiling had fallen to pieces without any outside interference. This means that as a result of analysis of the facts following the interview by the reporter of the residents of Mush-2 quarter and after seeing the scene (the apartment belonging the Anzhik Melikyan), as an evaluating judgment made by the reporter, the word “self-collapse” was published in the article, which did not pursue a goal of damaging the prestige and the honor of the Plaintiff but a goal of informing the public at large about what had happened.

The Court has brought in a verdict on 30.01.2012, partially satisfying the appeal and obliging the Respondent to deny the information damaging (slandering) the Plaintiff’s business reputation published under the title “$1,000 for silence” in issue 136 of August 26, 2010 of the Zhamanak daily. At the same time, the Court has decided to charge 200,000 AMD from the media outlet in favor of the Plaintiff as a compensation for slander.

The verdict brought in by the Court on January 30 was appealed by Skizb Media Kentron LLC on May 2, 2012. On June 14, 2012 the appeal to the Court of Appeal was completely rejected, leaving the court act in legal force.

2. The function of Information Disputes Council

Given that the function of the Information Disputes Council is to develop and publisize professional conclusions in disputes on slander and insult, the Council at its own initiative has studied the court case on the basis of the lawsuit filed by Glendale Hills CJSC against Skizb Media Kentron LLC and has published its professional conclusion.

3. RELEVANT PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

This conclusion is based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights, RA Civil Code, RA Civil Procedure Code, RA law “On Mass Information”, as well as decision ՍԴՈ-997 of the RA Constitutional Court of November 15, 2011 and decision of the RA Court of Cassation of April 27 in civil case ԵԿԴ/2293/02/10.

4. LEGAL ANALYSIS OF DISPUTED CASE

Public significance of the issues

The RA Constitutional Court, examining the issue of counterbalance between the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 27 of the RA Constitution and other interests protected by law, has suggested that the mentioned freedoms must always dominate in the case when disclosure of information has not been ungrounded, has pursued a legitimate goal and the particular information refers to state activities and persons representing public interest[1]. The Counstitutional Court has recorded that from the perspective of supremacy of public interest, the preventing and counterweighting significance of a media outlet means more than the necessity of correcting the mistake through material means[2].

Thus, in each specific case, depending on the facts of a particular case, it should be decided whether the interest of the society to be informed has been dominant as compared with the liability and responsibility of the person having reported information. According to the case law practices of the European Court of Human Rights, in such cases the frame of the discretion of national authorities is limited to the interest of a democratic society, meaning that the press should be allowed to perform its function of a “public control link” (“watchdog”) and disseminate information on serious issues representing public interest. According to the position of the Court, in the legal practices, first of all, such “immediate public requirement” should be evaluated that is able to justify this interference in a balanced manner and dutifully, without any ill-natured, person-defaming premeditation.

The study of the court’s decision in this case indicates that the court in its legal position has recorded that the Respondent party itself has stated that the Plaintiff has acquired a wide public recognition as a result of its activity and is in the focus of attetntion of the society, and according to the facts acquired during the trial, the court has considered that it is confirmed that the Plaintiff has performed some deficiencies during the construction works of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri. In addition, it is publicly known that the Plaintiff performs massive construction in Gyumri and in other settlements of the Republic of Armenia, with the information on the quality of construction obviously referring to wide public strata, while in this particular case the issue is considered important also by the sensible position of the population towards construction deficiencies in the disaster zone.

Therefore, publication of the information on the case happened in Mush-2 quarter of the city of Gyumri is of public significance. However, given the fact that the media outlet has not presented to the court any evidence that one of the buildings has been self-collapsed, the Council is of the opinion that the publication on the deficiencies occurred during the construction works in Much-2 quarter in Gyumri cannot be completely observed as being presented in good faith.

Availability of intention by the media outlet

According to the resolution 1577(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 4, 2007, statements arising from public interest, even if it is proven that they are not true, shall not be punishable, if they were performed without the knowledge of the fact of their being unverified, without any intention to cause harm, and relevant efforts have been made for verification of the truthfulness thereof. The RA Constitutional Court has concluded also that one of the typical features of slander is an intentional and conscious dissemination of unverified fact (or factual data) that insult a person’s dignity. Paragraph 2 of Part 5 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code defines that publicly presenting the factual data set out by Part 3 of that article is not considered to be slander, if the person having publicly presented the factual data proves that he/she has taken measures within reasonable efforts to verify the truthfulness and groundings thereof, as well as has presented those data in a balanced manner and in good faith. In other words, there is no presumption of intention[3].

According to the decision of the court, in this case, the Respondent in his legal position has mentioned that the reporter, while interviewing the residents, has reasonably taken measures to verify the truthfulness of the fact, and only then has published the article. In response to the position of the Plaintiff that the Respondent party should have clarified from the Plaintiff the size of the money suggested to the resident and only then publish the article, the Respondent suggests that in this case this is not a reasonable requirement since the suggestion by the Plaintiff to the residents has been done in oral form, therefore there was no guarantee that the plaintiffs would provide true information to the reporter; in addition, the material was requiring a timely publication, while in case of making a request and receiving the answer thereof the material would lose its timeliness:

The Council considers that the Court could have viewed among the critical facts for solution of the case also those measures taken by the Respondent to clarify the truthfulness and groundings of the pointed out facts, since in case of absence of intention, publications arisen from the public interest that even don’t match reality cannot be punishable, which had essential significance for solution of this case. In this regard, it was appropriate to clarify, in particular, whether the facts about absence of intention presented by the Respondent (in this case, interviews with interested persons) can reasonably be considered satisfactory in order to clarify, prior to publication of the article, the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court. However, the Court has considered that expressions by certain citizens available in records don’t have any evidential value and has removed them from the composition of the evidences.

Fulfilling the requirement of denial

The Plaintiff by letter No 894-27.08.10 has suggested the Respondent to refute the published disinformation and thus rehabilitate the Plaintiff’s violated rights and freedoms in an extrajudicial procedure. The Respondent has published the letter sent by the Plaintiff in Zhamanak daily on 01.09.2010. However, the Plaintiff has considered that the direct publication of the mentioned letter cannot be viewed as denial, given that denial  is not the fact of formal publication of the requirement of the person requiring denial but publication of the content of the denial by the denying person on his/her own behalf. In the case under consideration, in Plaintiff’s opinion, “Zhamanak” daily neither accepted nor  denied the disinformation published by itself, but has published the letter by the Plaintiff requireing denial.

Study of letter 894-27.08.10 by the Plaintiff to the Respondent indicates that with that letter the Plaintiff has requested from the Respondent to publicly apologize both to all Plaintiff’s employees and clients and the residents of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri.

The Council records that there are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. Moreover, those expressions appeared to prompt the Respondent to publish in this regard an article entitled “They still dare to speak”, which in the particular situation has even further exacerbated the situation thus making the judicial examination of the issue inevitable. However, in the event of more respectful attitude of parties to each other, it would be possible also to solve the problem based in the principle of reaching peace which is the most preferable option in similar cases.

Proportionality of cash compensation

Against the damage caused as a result of defaming expressions (actions), forms of non-material compensation should be applied as a priority. Material compensation should be limited to compensating the direct damage caused to the honor, dignity and business reputation of a person, and it should be assigned only in cases when non material compensation is not sufficient to compensate the caused damage[4].

In regard to this issue, the RA Court of Cassation has recorded that in case of assigning a material compensation it is necessary that the courts pay a great attention to defining the size of the money being compensated and request from the respondents financial and other documents on their incomes presented to state and other competent bodies (for instance, tax reports presented to the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government); otherwise compensations in large amounts can result in grave consequences in terms of continuing their  normal activity.

The Plaintiff has requested to charge 2,000,000  AMD from the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a consecuence of slander. The Court has considered that the respondent media outlet should be charged 200,000 AMD as compensation, taking into account the method of the slander, the area of dissemination, as well as the material status of the Respondent։ 

Taking into account the above conclusions of the RA Constitutional Court and the RA Court of Cassation, the Counsil considers that applying in this case the measure set out by paragraph 1 of part 8 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, i.e. denial of factual data considered a slander through the media outlet having published the information considered a slander, was a quite sufficient measure, especially as the availability of the fact of non material damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff has not been proven both by the Plaintiff and otherwise. The Council records also that in this particular case the equivalence of the amount assigned by the Court, 200,000 AMD, and the size of damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff is not grounded in any form whatsoever.

5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan – Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan – Director of “ArmMedia” program




[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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12:13, July 26, 2012

1. FACTS IN THE CASE

The 136th edition of “Zhamanak” daily, a media outlet published by “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, released on 26.08.2010 an article entitled “$1000 for silence” with the following content:

“…Sources familiar with the issue told that Gyumri representatives of Glendale Hills organization, after the self-collapse of one of the buildings built by Glendale Hills in Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri, attempted to convince the residents at any price not to inform the media about what had happened. Our source who preferred remaining unknown informed that Glendale Hills has suggested to residents 1,000 US dollars cash as well as has promised to rapidly renovate the apartment only to prevent the topic to appear in media, while in the opposite case the company has threatened not to renovate the apartment. The affected residents, however, have refused the shadow transaction with Glendale Hills.”

Glendale Hills CJSC (hereafter Plaintiff) on 23.09.2010 applied to the Nork-Marash Court of General Jurisdiction asking to oblige the “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC (hereafter Respondent) to deny the information published by Zhamanak daily damaging the Plaintiff’s business reputation and confiscate 2,000,000 AMD for the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a result of slander, as well as another 500.000 AMD as a sum paid to the lawyer.

The plaintiff has considered that the media outlet has published imaginary information that does not match reality and is a slander, i.e. going public with such facts about the Plaintiff that do not match reality and damage his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Plaintiff has claimed that the information was disseminated for the purpose of damaging the business reputation of the Plaintiff, taking into account especially the nature and the content of the information not matching reality; in particular, dissemination of such disinformation could not possibly be directed to other persons, in this case – residents or to the protection of the rights of the public or to the protection of other public interests.

The Respondent, invoking the right to case law of the European Court, has mentioned that the reporter has used the word “self-collapse” as an evaluating judgment, which has have a specific practical demonstration. During the trial the reporter in his testimony has clarified that the purpose of using the word “self-collapse”, stating that he used the word to present that the ceiling had fallen to pieces without any outside interference. This means that as a result of analysis of the facts following the interview by the reporter of the residents of Mush-2 quarter and after seeing the scene (the apartment belonging the Anzhik Melikyan), as an evaluating judgment made by the reporter, the word “self-collapse” was published in the article, which did not pursue a goal of damaging the prestige and the honor of the Plaintiff but a goal of informing the public at large about what had happened.

The Court has brought in a verdict on 30.01.2012, partially satisfying the appeal and obliging the Respondent to deny the information damaging (slandering) the Plaintiff’s business reputation published under the title “$1,000 for silence” in issue 136 of August 26, 2010 of the Zhamanak daily. At the same time, the Court has decided to charge 200,000 AMD from the media outlet in favor of the Plaintiff as a compensation for slander.

The verdict brought in by the Court on January 30 was appealed by Skizb Media Kentron LLC on May 2, 2012. On June 14, 2012 the appeal to the Court of Appeal was completely rejected, leaving the court act in legal force.

2. The function of Information Disputes Council

Given that the function of the Information Disputes Council is to develop and publisize professional conclusions in disputes on slander and insult, the Council at its own initiative has studied the court case on the basis of the lawsuit filed by Glendale Hills CJSC against Skizb Media Kentron LLC and has published its professional conclusion.

3. RELEVANT PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

This conclusion is based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights, RA Civil Code, RA Civil Procedure Code, RA law “On Mass Information”, as well as decision ՍԴՈ-997 of the RA Constitutional Court of November 15, 2011 and decision of the RA Court of Cassation of April 27 in civil case ԵԿԴ/2293/02/10.

4. LEGAL ANALYSIS OF DISPUTED CASE

Public significance of the issues

The RA Constitutional Court, examining the issue of counterbalance between the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 27 of the RA Constitution and other interests protected by law, has suggested that the mentioned freedoms must always dominate in the case when disclosure of information has not been ungrounded, has pursued a legitimate goal and the particular information refers to state activities and persons representing public interest[1]. The Counstitutional Court has recorded that from the perspective of supremacy of public interest, the preventing and counterweighting significance of a media outlet means more than the necessity of correcting the mistake through material means[2].

Thus, in each specific case, depending on the facts of a particular case, it should be decided whether the interest of the society to be informed has been dominant as compared with the liability and responsibility of the person having reported information. According to the case law practices of the European Court of Human Rights, in such cases the frame of the discretion of national authorities is limited to the interest of a democratic society, meaning that the press should be allowed to perform its function of a “public control link” (“watchdog”) and disseminate information on serious issues representing public interest. According to the position of the Court, in the legal practices, first of all, such “immediate public requirement” should be evaluated that is able to justify this interference in a balanced manner and dutifully, without any ill-natured, person-defaming premeditation.

The study of the court’s decision in this case indicates that the court in its legal position has recorded that the Respondent party itself has stated that the Plaintiff has acquired a wide public recognition as a result of its activity and is in the focus of attetntion of the society, and according to the facts acquired during the trial, the court has considered that it is confirmed that the Plaintiff has performed some deficiencies during the construction works of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri. In addition, it is publicly known that the Plaintiff performs massive construction in Gyumri and in other settlements of the Republic of Armenia, with the information on the quality of construction obviously referring to wide public strata, while in this particular case the issue is considered important also by the sensible position of the population towards construction deficiencies in the disaster zone.

Therefore, publication of the information on the case happened in Mush-2 quarter of the city of Gyumri is of public significance. However, given the fact that the media outlet has not presented to the court any evidence that one of the buildings has been self-collapsed, the Council is of the opinion that the publication on the deficiencies occurred during the construction works in Much-2 quarter in Gyumri cannot be completely observed as being presented in good faith.

Availability of intention by the media outlet

According to the resolution 1577(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 4, 2007, statements arising from public interest, even if it is proven that they are not true, shall not be punishable, if they were performed without the knowledge of the fact of their being unverified, without any intention to cause harm, and relevant efforts have been made for verification of the truthfulness thereof. The RA Constitutional Court has concluded also that one of the typical features of slander is an intentional and conscious dissemination of unverified fact (or factual data) that insult a person’s dignity. Paragraph 2 of Part 5 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code defines that publicly presenting the factual data set out by Part 3 of that article is not considered to be slander, if the person having publicly presented the factual data proves that he/she has taken measures within reasonable efforts to verify the truthfulness and groundings thereof, as well as has presented those data in a balanced manner and in good faith. In other words, there is no presumption of intention[3].

According to the decision of the court, in this case, the Respondent in his legal position has mentioned that the reporter, while interviewing the residents, has reasonably taken measures to verify the truthfulness of the fact, and only then has published the article. In response to the position of the Plaintiff that the Respondent party should have clarified from the Plaintiff the size of the money suggested to the resident and only then publish the article, the Respondent suggests that in this case this is not a reasonable requirement since the suggestion by the Plaintiff to the residents has been done in oral form, therefore there was no guarantee that the plaintiffs would provide true information to the reporter; in addition, the material was requiring a timely publication, while in case of making a request and receiving the answer thereof the material would lose its timeliness:

The Council considers that the Court could have viewed among the critical facts for solution of the case also those measures taken by the Respondent to clarify the truthfulness and groundings of the pointed out facts, since in case of absence of intention, publications arisen from the public interest that even don’t match reality cannot be punishable, which had essential significance for solution of this case. In this regard, it was appropriate to clarify, in particular, whether the facts about absence of intention presented by the Respondent (in this case, interviews with interested persons) can reasonably be considered satisfactory in order to clarify, prior to publication of the article, the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court. However, the Court has considered that expressions by certain citizens available in records don’t have any evidential value and has removed them from the composition of the evidences.

Fulfilling the requirement of denial

The Plaintiff by letter No 894-27.08.10 has suggested the Respondent to refute the published disinformation and thus rehabilitate the Plaintiff’s violated rights and freedoms in an extrajudicial procedure. The Respondent has published the letter sent by the Plaintiff in Zhamanak daily on 01.09.2010. However, the Plaintiff has considered that the direct publication of the mentioned letter cannot be viewed as denial, given that denial  is not the fact of formal publication of the requirement of the person requiring denial but publication of the content of the denial by the denying person on his/her own behalf. In the case under consideration, in Plaintiff’s opinion, “Zhamanak” daily neither accepted nor  denied the disinformation published by itself, but has published the letter by the Plaintiff requireing denial.

Study of letter 894-27.08.10 by the Plaintiff to the Respondent indicates that with that letter the Plaintiff has requested from the Respondent to publicly apologize both to all Plaintiff’s employees and clients and the residents of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri.

The Council records that there are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. Moreover, those expressions appeared to prompt the Respondent to publish in this regard an article entitled “They still dare to speak”, which in the particular situation has even further exacerbated the situation thus making the judicial examination of the issue inevitable. However, in the event of more respectful attitude of parties to each other, it would be possible also to solve the problem based in the principle of reaching peace which is the most preferable option in similar cases.

Proportionality of cash compensation

Against the damage caused as a result of defaming expressions (actions), forms of non-material compensation should be applied as a priority. Material compensation should be limited to compensating the direct damage caused to the honor, dignity and business reputation of a person, and it should be assigned only in cases when non material compensation is not sufficient to compensate the caused damage[4].

In regard to this issue, the RA Court of Cassation has recorded that in case of assigning a material compensation it is necessary that the courts pay a great attention to defining the size of the money being compensated and request from the respondents financial and other documents on their incomes presented to state and other competent bodies (for instance, tax reports presented to the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government); otherwise compensations in large amounts can result in grave consequences in terms of continuing their  normal activity.

The Plaintiff has requested to charge 2,000,000  AMD from the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a consecuence of slander. The Court has considered that the respondent media outlet should be charged 200,000 AMD as compensation, taking into account the method of the slander, the area of dissemination, as well as the material status of the Respondent։ 

Taking into account the above conclusions of the RA Constitutional Court and the RA Court of Cassation, the Counsil considers that applying in this case the measure set out by paragraph 1 of part 8 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, i.e. denial of factual data considered a slander through the media outlet having published the information considered a slander, was a quite sufficient measure, especially as the availability of the fact of non material damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff has not been proven both by the Plaintiff and otherwise. The Council records also that in this particular case the equivalence of the amount assigned by the Court, 200,000 AMD, and the size of damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff is not grounded in any form whatsoever.

5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan – Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan – Director of “ArmMedia” program




[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

12:13, July 26, 2012

1. FACTS IN THE CASE

The 136th edition of “Zhamanak” daily, a media outlet published by “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, released on 26.08.2010 an article entitled “$1000 for silence” with the following content:

“…Sources familiar with the issue told that Gyumri representatives of Glendale Hills organization, after the self-collapse of one of the buildings built by Glendale Hills in Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri, attempted to convince the residents at any price not to inform the media about what had happened. Our source who preferred remaining unknown informed that Glendale Hills has suggested to residents 1,000 US dollars cash as well as has promised to rapidly renovate the apartment only to prevent the topic to appear in media, while in the opposite case the company has threatened not to renovate the apartment. The affected residents, however, have refused the shadow transaction with Glendale Hills.”

Glendale Hills CJSC (hereafter Plaintiff) on 23.09.2010 applied to the Nork-Marash Court of General Jurisdiction asking to oblige the “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC (hereafter Respondent) to deny the information published by Zhamanak daily damaging the Plaintiff’s business reputation and confiscate 2,000,000 AMD for the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a result of slander, as well as another 500.000 AMD as a sum paid to the lawyer.

The plaintiff has considered that the media outlet has published imaginary information that does not match reality and is a slander, i.e. going public with such facts about the Plaintiff that do not match reality and damage his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Plaintiff has claimed that the information was disseminated for the purpose of damaging the business reputation of the Plaintiff, taking into account especially the nature and the content of the information not matching reality; in particular, dissemination of such disinformation could not possibly be directed to other persons, in this case – residents or to the protection of the rights of the public or to the protection of other public interests.

The Respondent, invoking the right to case law of the European Court, has mentioned that the reporter has used the word “self-collapse” as an evaluating judgment, which has have a specific practical demonstration. During the trial the reporter in his testimony has clarified that the purpose of using the word “self-collapse”, stating that he used the word to present that the ceiling had fallen to pieces without any outside interference. This means that as a result of analysis of the facts following the interview by the reporter of the residents of Mush-2 quarter and after seeing the scene (the apartment belonging the Anzhik Melikyan), as an evaluating judgment made by the reporter, the word “self-collapse” was published in the article, which did not pursue a goal of damaging the prestige and the honor of the Plaintiff but a goal of informing the public at large about what had happened.

The Court has brought in a verdict on 30.01.2012, partially satisfying the appeal and obliging the Respondent to deny the information damaging (slandering) the Plaintiff’s business reputation published under the title “$1,000 for silence” in issue 136 of August 26, 2010 of the Zhamanak daily. At the same time, the Court has decided to charge 200,000 AMD from the media outlet in favor of the Plaintiff as a compensation for slander.

The verdict brought in by the Court on January 30 was appealed by Skizb Media Kentron LLC on May 2, 2012. On June 14, 2012 the appeal to the Court of Appeal was completely rejected, leaving the court act in legal force.

2. The function of Information Disputes Council

Given that the function of the Information Disputes Council is to develop and publisize professional conclusions in disputes on slander and insult, the Council at its own initiative has studied the court case on the basis of the lawsuit filed by Glendale Hills CJSC against Skizb Media Kentron LLC and has published its professional conclusion.

3. RELEVANT PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

This conclusion is based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights, RA Civil Code, RA Civil Procedure Code, RA law “On Mass Information”, as well as decision ՍԴՈ-997 of the RA Constitutional Court of November 15, 2011 and decision of the RA Court of Cassation of April 27 in civil case ԵԿԴ/2293/02/10.

4. LEGAL ANALYSIS OF DISPUTED CASE

Public significance of the issues

The RA Constitutional Court, examining the issue of counterbalance between the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 27 of the RA Constitution and other interests protected by law, has suggested that the mentioned freedoms must always dominate in the case when disclosure of information has not been ungrounded, has pursued a legitimate goal and the particular information refers to state activities and persons representing public interest[1]. The Counstitutional Court has recorded that from the perspective of supremacy of public interest, the preventing and counterweighting significance of a media outlet means more than the necessity of correcting the mistake through material means[2].

Thus, in each specific case, depending on the facts of a particular case, it should be decided whether the interest of the society to be informed has been dominant as compared with the liability and responsibility of the person having reported information. According to the case law practices of the European Court of Human Rights, in such cases the frame of the discretion of national authorities is limited to the interest of a democratic society, meaning that the press should be allowed to perform its function of a “public control link” (“watchdog”) and disseminate information on serious issues representing public interest. According to the position of the Court, in the legal practices, first of all, such “immediate public requirement” should be evaluated that is able to justify this interference in a balanced manner and dutifully, without any ill-natured, person-defaming premeditation.

The study of the court’s decision in this case indicates that the court in its legal position has recorded that the Respondent party itself has stated that the Plaintiff has acquired a wide public recognition as a result of its activity and is in the focus of attetntion of the society, and according to the facts acquired during the trial, the court has considered that it is confirmed that the Plaintiff has performed some deficiencies during the construction works of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri. In addition, it is publicly known that the Plaintiff performs massive construction in Gyumri and in other settlements of the Republic of Armenia, with the information on the quality of construction obviously referring to wide public strata, while in this particular case the issue is considered important also by the sensible position of the population towards construction deficiencies in the disaster zone.

Therefore, publication of the information on the case happened in Mush-2 quarter of the city of Gyumri is of public significance. However, given the fact that the media outlet has not presented to the court any evidence that one of the buildings has been self-collapsed, the Council is of the opinion that the publication on the deficiencies occurred during the construction works in Much-2 quarter in Gyumri cannot be completely observed as being presented in good faith.

Availability of intention by the media outlet

According to the resolution 1577(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 4, 2007, statements arising from public interest, even if it is proven that they are not true, shall not be punishable, if they were performed without the knowledge of the fact of their being unverified, without any intention to cause harm, and relevant efforts have been made for verification of the truthfulness thereof. The RA Constitutional Court has concluded also that one of the typical features of slander is an intentional and conscious dissemination of unverified fact (or factual data) that insult a person’s dignity. Paragraph 2 of Part 5 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code defines that publicly presenting the factual data set out by Part 3 of that article is not considered to be slander, if the person having publicly presented the factual data proves that he/she has taken measures within reasonable efforts to verify the truthfulness and groundings thereof, as well as has presented those data in a balanced manner and in good faith. In other words, there is no presumption of intention[3].

According to the decision of the court, in this case, the Respondent in his legal position has mentioned that the reporter, while interviewing the residents, has reasonably taken measures to verify the truthfulness of the fact, and only then has published the article. In response to the position of the Plaintiff that the Respondent party should have clarified from the Plaintiff the size of the money suggested to the resident and only then publish the article, the Respondent suggests that in this case this is not a reasonable requirement since the suggestion by the Plaintiff to the residents has been done in oral form, therefore there was no guarantee that the plaintiffs would provide true information to the reporter; in addition, the material was requiring a timely publication, while in case of making a request and receiving the answer thereof the material would lose its timeliness:

The Council considers that the Court could have viewed among the critical facts for solution of the case also those measures taken by the Respondent to clarify the truthfulness and groundings of the pointed out facts, since in case of absence of intention, publications arisen from the public interest that even don’t match reality cannot be punishable, which had essential significance for solution of this case. In this regard, it was appropriate to clarify, in particular, whether the facts about absence of intention presented by the Respondent (in this case, interviews with interested persons) can reasonably be considered satisfactory in order to clarify, prior to publication of the article, the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court. However, the Court has considered that expressions by certain citizens available in records don’t have any evidential value and has removed them from the composition of the evidences.

Fulfilling the requirement of denial

The Plaintiff by letter No 894-27.08.10 has suggested the Respondent to refute the published disinformation and thus rehabilitate the Plaintiff’s violated rights and freedoms in an extrajudicial procedure. The Respondent has published the letter sent by the Plaintiff in Zhamanak daily on 01.09.2010. However, the Plaintiff has considered that the direct publication of the mentioned letter cannot be viewed as denial, given that denial  is not the fact of formal publication of the requirement of the person requiring denial but publication of the content of the denial by the denying person on his/her own behalf. In the case under consideration, in Plaintiff’s opinion, “Zhamanak” daily neither accepted nor  denied the disinformation published by itself, but has published the letter by the Plaintiff requireing denial.

Study of letter 894-27.08.10 by the Plaintiff to the Respondent indicates that with that letter the Plaintiff has requested from the Respondent to publicly apologize both to all Plaintiff’s employees and clients and the residents of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri.

The Council records that there are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. Moreover, those expressions appeared to prompt the Respondent to publish in this regard an article entitled “They still dare to speak”, which in the particular situation has even further exacerbated the situation thus making the judicial examination of the issue inevitable. However, in the event of more respectful attitude of parties to each other, it would be possible also to solve the problem based in the principle of reaching peace which is the most preferable option in similar cases.

Proportionality of cash compensation

Against the damage caused as a result of defaming expressions (actions), forms of non-material compensation should be applied as a priority. Material compensation should be limited to compensating the direct damage caused to the honor, dignity and business reputation of a person, and it should be assigned only in cases when non material compensation is not sufficient to compensate the caused damage[4].

In regard to this issue, the RA Court of Cassation has recorded that in case of assigning a material compensation it is necessary that the courts pay a great attention to defining the size of the money being compensated and request from the respondents financial and other documents on their incomes presented to state and other competent bodies (for instance, tax reports presented to the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government); otherwise compensations in large amounts can result in grave consequences in terms of continuing their  normal activity.

The Plaintiff has requested to charge 2,000,000  AMD from the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a consecuence of slander. The Court has considered that the respondent media outlet should be charged 200,000 AMD as compensation, taking into account the method of the slander, the area of dissemination, as well as the material status of the Respondent։ 

Taking into account the above conclusions of the RA Constitutional Court and the RA Court of Cassation, the Counsil considers that applying in this case the measure set out by paragraph 1 of part 8 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, i.e. denial of factual data considered a slander through the media outlet having published the information considered a slander, was a quite sufficient measure, especially as the availability of the fact of non material damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff has not been proven both by the Plaintiff and otherwise. The Council records also that in this particular case the equivalence of the amount assigned by the Court, 200,000 AMD, and the size of damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff is not grounded in any form whatsoever.

5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan – Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan – Director of “ArmMedia” program




[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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  3. For the First Time, Court Dismisses Armenian MP’s Lawsuit Against Newspaper
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“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

12:13, July 26, 2012

1. FACTS IN THE CASE

The 136th edition of “Zhamanak” daily, a media outlet published by “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, released on 26.08.2010 an article entitled “$1000 for silence” with the following content:

“…Sources familiar with the issue told that Gyumri representatives of Glendale Hills organization, after the self-collapse of one of the buildings built by Glendale Hills in Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri, attempted to convince the residents at any price not to inform the media about what had happened. Our source who preferred remaining unknown informed that Glendale Hills has suggested to residents 1,000 US dollars cash as well as has promised to rapidly renovate the apartment only to prevent the topic to appear in media, while in the opposite case the company has threatened not to renovate the apartment. The affected residents, however, have refused the shadow transaction with Glendale Hills.”

Glendale Hills CJSC (hereafter Plaintiff) on 23.09.2010 applied to the Nork-Marash Court of General Jurisdiction asking to oblige the “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC (hereafter Respondent) to deny the information published by Zhamanak daily damaging the Plaintiff’s business reputation and confiscate 2,000,000 AMD for the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a result of slander, as well as another 500.000 AMD as a sum paid to the lawyer.

The plaintiff has considered that the media outlet has published imaginary information that does not match reality and is a slander, i.e. going public with such facts about the Plaintiff that do not match reality and damage his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Plaintiff has claimed that the information was disseminated for the purpose of damaging the business reputation of the Plaintiff, taking into account especially the nature and the content of the information not matching reality; in particular, dissemination of such disinformation could not possibly be directed to other persons, in this case – residents or to the protection of the rights of the public or to the protection of other public interests.

The Respondent, invoking the right to case law of the European Court, has mentioned that the reporter has used the word “self-collapse” as an evaluating judgment, which has have a specific practical demonstration. During the trial the reporter in his testimony has clarified that the purpose of using the word “self-collapse”, stating that he used the word to present that the ceiling had fallen to pieces without any outside interference. This means that as a result of analysis of the facts following the interview by the reporter of the residents of Mush-2 quarter and after seeing the scene (the apartment belonging the Anzhik Melikyan), as an evaluating judgment made by the reporter, the word “self-collapse” was published in the article, which did not pursue a goal of damaging the prestige and the honor of the Plaintiff but a goal of informing the public at large about what had happened.

The Court has brought in a verdict on 30.01.2012, partially satisfying the appeal and obliging the Respondent to deny the information damaging (slandering) the Plaintiff’s business reputation published under the title “$1,000 for silence” in issue 136 of August 26, 2010 of the Zhamanak daily. At the same time, the Court has decided to charge 200,000 AMD from the media outlet in favor of the Plaintiff as a compensation for slander.

The verdict brought in by the Court on January 30 was appealed by Skizb Media Kentron LLC on May 2, 2012. On June 14, 2012 the appeal to the Court of Appeal was completely rejected, leaving the court act in legal force.

2. The function of Information Disputes Council

Given that the function of the Information Disputes Council is to develop and publisize professional conclusions in disputes on slander and insult, the Council at its own initiative has studied the court case on the basis of the lawsuit filed by Glendale Hills CJSC against Skizb Media Kentron LLC and has published its professional conclusion.

3. RELEVANT PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

This conclusion is based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights, RA Civil Code, RA Civil Procedure Code, RA law “On Mass Information”, as well as decision ՍԴՈ-997 of the RA Constitutional Court of November 15, 2011 and decision of the RA Court of Cassation of April 27 in civil case ԵԿԴ/2293/02/10.

4. LEGAL ANALYSIS OF DISPUTED CASE

Public significance of the issues

The RA Constitutional Court, examining the issue of counterbalance between the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 27 of the RA Constitution and other interests protected by law, has suggested that the mentioned freedoms must always dominate in the case when disclosure of information has not been ungrounded, has pursued a legitimate goal and the particular information refers to state activities and persons representing public interest[1]. The Counstitutional Court has recorded that from the perspective of supremacy of public interest, the preventing and counterweighting significance of a media outlet means more than the necessity of correcting the mistake through material means[2].

Thus, in each specific case, depending on the facts of a particular case, it should be decided whether the interest of the society to be informed has been dominant as compared with the liability and responsibility of the person having reported information. According to the case law practices of the European Court of Human Rights, in such cases the frame of the discretion of national authorities is limited to the interest of a democratic society, meaning that the press should be allowed to perform its function of a “public control link” (“watchdog”) and disseminate information on serious issues representing public interest. According to the position of the Court, in the legal practices, first of all, such “immediate public requirement” should be evaluated that is able to justify this interference in a balanced manner and dutifully, without any ill-natured, person-defaming premeditation.

The study of the court’s decision in this case indicates that the court in its legal position has recorded that the Respondent party itself has stated that the Plaintiff has acquired a wide public recognition as a result of its activity and is in the focus of attetntion of the society, and according to the facts acquired during the trial, the court has considered that it is confirmed that the Plaintiff has performed some deficiencies during the construction works of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri. In addition, it is publicly known that the Plaintiff performs massive construction in Gyumri and in other settlements of the Republic of Armenia, with the information on the quality of construction obviously referring to wide public strata, while in this particular case the issue is considered important also by the sensible position of the population towards construction deficiencies in the disaster zone.

Therefore, publication of the information on the case happened in Mush-2 quarter of the city of Gyumri is of public significance. However, given the fact that the media outlet has not presented to the court any evidence that one of the buildings has been self-collapsed, the Council is of the opinion that the publication on the deficiencies occurred during the construction works in Much-2 quarter in Gyumri cannot be completely observed as being presented in good faith.

Availability of intention by the media outlet

According to the resolution 1577(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 4, 2007, statements arising from public interest, even if it is proven that they are not true, shall not be punishable, if they were performed without the knowledge of the fact of their being unverified, without any intention to cause harm, and relevant efforts have been made for verification of the truthfulness thereof. The RA Constitutional Court has concluded also that one of the typical features of slander is an intentional and conscious dissemination of unverified fact (or factual data) that insult a person’s dignity. Paragraph 2 of Part 5 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code defines that publicly presenting the factual data set out by Part 3 of that article is not considered to be slander, if the person having publicly presented the factual data proves that he/she has taken measures within reasonable efforts to verify the truthfulness and groundings thereof, as well as has presented those data in a balanced manner and in good faith. In other words, there is no presumption of intention[3].

According to the decision of the court, in this case, the Respondent in his legal position has mentioned that the reporter, while interviewing the residents, has reasonably taken measures to verify the truthfulness of the fact, and only then has published the article. In response to the position of the Plaintiff that the Respondent party should have clarified from the Plaintiff the size of the money suggested to the resident and only then publish the article, the Respondent suggests that in this case this is not a reasonable requirement since the suggestion by the Plaintiff to the residents has been done in oral form, therefore there was no guarantee that the plaintiffs would provide true information to the reporter; in addition, the material was requiring a timely publication, while in case of making a request and receiving the answer thereof the material would lose its timeliness:

The Council considers that the Court could have viewed among the critical facts for solution of the case also those measures taken by the Respondent to clarify the truthfulness and groundings of the pointed out facts, since in case of absence of intention, publications arisen from the public interest that even don’t match reality cannot be punishable, which had essential significance for solution of this case. In this regard, it was appropriate to clarify, in particular, whether the facts about absence of intention presented by the Respondent (in this case, interviews with interested persons) can reasonably be considered satisfactory in order to clarify, prior to publication of the article, the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court. However, the Court has considered that expressions by certain citizens available in records don’t have any evidential value and has removed them from the composition of the evidences.

Fulfilling the requirement of denial

The Plaintiff by letter No 894-27.08.10 has suggested the Respondent to refute the published disinformation and thus rehabilitate the Plaintiff’s violated rights and freedoms in an extrajudicial procedure. The Respondent has published the letter sent by the Plaintiff in Zhamanak daily on 01.09.2010. However, the Plaintiff has considered that the direct publication of the mentioned letter cannot be viewed as denial, given that denial  is not the fact of formal publication of the requirement of the person requiring denial but publication of the content of the denial by the denying person on his/her own behalf. In the case under consideration, in Plaintiff’s opinion, “Zhamanak” daily neither accepted nor  denied the disinformation published by itself, but has published the letter by the Plaintiff requireing denial.

Study of letter 894-27.08.10 by the Plaintiff to the Respondent indicates that with that letter the Plaintiff has requested from the Respondent to publicly apologize both to all Plaintiff’s employees and clients and the residents of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri.

The Council records that there are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. Moreover, those expressions appeared to prompt the Respondent to publish in this regard an article entitled “They still dare to speak”, which in the particular situation has even further exacerbated the situation thus making the judicial examination of the issue inevitable. However, in the event of more respectful attitude of parties to each other, it would be possible also to solve the problem based in the principle of reaching peace which is the most preferable option in similar cases.

Proportionality of cash compensation

Against the damage caused as a result of defaming expressions (actions), forms of non-material compensation should be applied as a priority. Material compensation should be limited to compensating the direct damage caused to the honor, dignity and business reputation of a person, and it should be assigned only in cases when non material compensation is not sufficient to compensate the caused damage[4].

In regard to this issue, the RA Court of Cassation has recorded that in case of assigning a material compensation it is necessary that the courts pay a great attention to defining the size of the money being compensated and request from the respondents financial and other documents on their incomes presented to state and other competent bodies (for instance, tax reports presented to the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government); otherwise compensations in large amounts can result in grave consequences in terms of continuing their  normal activity.

The Plaintiff has requested to charge 2,000,000  AMD from the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a consecuence of slander. The Court has considered that the respondent media outlet should be charged 200,000 AMD as compensation, taking into account the method of the slander, the area of dissemination, as well as the material status of the Respondent։ 

Taking into account the above conclusions of the RA Constitutional Court and the RA Court of Cassation, the Counsil considers that applying in this case the measure set out by paragraph 1 of part 8 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, i.e. denial of factual data considered a slander through the media outlet having published the information considered a slander, was a quite sufficient measure, especially as the availability of the fact of non material damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff has not been proven both by the Plaintiff and otherwise. The Council records also that in this particular case the equivalence of the amount assigned by the Court, 200,000 AMD, and the size of damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff is not grounded in any form whatsoever.

5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan – Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan – Director of “ArmMedia” program




[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

12:13, July 26, 2012

1. FACTS IN THE CASE

The 136th edition of “Zhamanak” daily, a media outlet published by “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, released on 26.08.2010 an article entitled “$1000 for silence” with the following content:

“…Sources familiar with the issue told that Gyumri representatives of Glendale Hills organization, after the self-collapse of one of the buildings built by Glendale Hills in Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri, attempted to convince the residents at any price not to inform the media about what had happened. Our source who preferred remaining unknown informed that Glendale Hills has suggested to residents 1,000 US dollars cash as well as has promised to rapidly renovate the apartment only to prevent the topic to appear in media, while in the opposite case the company has threatened not to renovate the apartment. The affected residents, however, have refused the shadow transaction with Glendale Hills.”

Glendale Hills CJSC (hereafter Plaintiff) on 23.09.2010 applied to the Nork-Marash Court of General Jurisdiction asking to oblige the “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC (hereafter Respondent) to deny the information published by Zhamanak daily damaging the Plaintiff’s business reputation and confiscate 2,000,000 AMD for the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a result of slander, as well as another 500.000 AMD as a sum paid to the lawyer.

The plaintiff has considered that the media outlet has published imaginary information that does not match reality and is a slander, i.e. going public with such facts about the Plaintiff that do not match reality and damage his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Plaintiff has claimed that the information was disseminated for the purpose of damaging the business reputation of the Plaintiff, taking into account especially the nature and the content of the information not matching reality; in particular, dissemination of such disinformation could not possibly be directed to other persons, in this case – residents or to the protection of the rights of the public or to the protection of other public interests.

The Respondent, invoking the right to case law of the European Court, has mentioned that the reporter has used the word “self-collapse” as an evaluating judgment, which has have a specific practical demonstration. During the trial the reporter in his testimony has clarified that the purpose of using the word “self-collapse”, stating that he used the word to present that the ceiling had fallen to pieces without any outside interference. This means that as a result of analysis of the facts following the interview by the reporter of the residents of Mush-2 quarter and after seeing the scene (the apartment belonging the Anzhik Melikyan), as an evaluating judgment made by the reporter, the word “self-collapse” was published in the article, which did not pursue a goal of damaging the prestige and the honor of the Plaintiff but a goal of informing the public at large about what had happened.

The Court has brought in a verdict on 30.01.2012, partially satisfying the appeal and obliging the Respondent to deny the information damaging (slandering) the Plaintiff’s business reputation published under the title “$1,000 for silence” in issue 136 of August 26, 2010 of the Zhamanak daily. At the same time, the Court has decided to charge 200,000 AMD from the media outlet in favor of the Plaintiff as a compensation for slander.

The verdict brought in by the Court on January 30 was appealed by Skizb Media Kentron LLC on May 2, 2012. On June 14, 2012 the appeal to the Court of Appeal was completely rejected, leaving the court act in legal force.

2. The function of Information Disputes Council

Given that the function of the Information Disputes Council is to develop and publisize professional conclusions in disputes on slander and insult, the Council at its own initiative has studied the court case on the basis of the lawsuit filed by Glendale Hills CJSC against Skizb Media Kentron LLC and has published its professional conclusion.

3. RELEVANT PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

This conclusion is based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights, RA Civil Code, RA Civil Procedure Code, RA law “On Mass Information”, as well as decision ՍԴՈ-997 of the RA Constitutional Court of November 15, 2011 and decision of the RA Court of Cassation of April 27 in civil case ԵԿԴ/2293/02/10.

4. LEGAL ANALYSIS OF DISPUTED CASE

Public significance of the issues

The RA Constitutional Court, examining the issue of counterbalance between the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 27 of the RA Constitution and other interests protected by law, has suggested that the mentioned freedoms must always dominate in the case when disclosure of information has not been ungrounded, has pursued a legitimate goal and the particular information refers to state activities and persons representing public interest[1]. The Counstitutional Court has recorded that from the perspective of supremacy of public interest, the preventing and counterweighting significance of a media outlet means more than the necessity of correcting the mistake through material means[2].

Thus, in each specific case, depending on the facts of a particular case, it should be decided whether the interest of the society to be informed has been dominant as compared with the liability and responsibility of the person having reported information. According to the case law practices of the European Court of Human Rights, in such cases the frame of the discretion of national authorities is limited to the interest of a democratic society, meaning that the press should be allowed to perform its function of a “public control link” (“watchdog”) and disseminate information on serious issues representing public interest. According to the position of the Court, in the legal practices, first of all, such “immediate public requirement” should be evaluated that is able to justify this interference in a balanced manner and dutifully, without any ill-natured, person-defaming premeditation.

The study of the court’s decision in this case indicates that the court in its legal position has recorded that the Respondent party itself has stated that the Plaintiff has acquired a wide public recognition as a result of its activity and is in the focus of attetntion of the society, and according to the facts acquired during the trial, the court has considered that it is confirmed that the Plaintiff has performed some deficiencies during the construction works of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri. In addition, it is publicly known that the Plaintiff performs massive construction in Gyumri and in other settlements of the Republic of Armenia, with the information on the quality of construction obviously referring to wide public strata, while in this particular case the issue is considered important also by the sensible position of the population towards construction deficiencies in the disaster zone.

Therefore, publication of the information on the case happened in Mush-2 quarter of the city of Gyumri is of public significance. However, given the fact that the media outlet has not presented to the court any evidence that one of the buildings has been self-collapsed, the Council is of the opinion that the publication on the deficiencies occurred during the construction works in Much-2 quarter in Gyumri cannot be completely observed as being presented in good faith.

Availability of intention by the media outlet

According to the resolution 1577(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 4, 2007, statements arising from public interest, even if it is proven that they are not true, shall not be punishable, if they were performed without the knowledge of the fact of their being unverified, without any intention to cause harm, and relevant efforts have been made for verification of the truthfulness thereof. The RA Constitutional Court has concluded also that one of the typical features of slander is an intentional and conscious dissemination of unverified fact (or factual data) that insult a person’s dignity. Paragraph 2 of Part 5 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code defines that publicly presenting the factual data set out by Part 3 of that article is not considered to be slander, if the person having publicly presented the factual data proves that he/she has taken measures within reasonable efforts to verify the truthfulness and groundings thereof, as well as has presented those data in a balanced manner and in good faith. In other words, there is no presumption of intention[3].

According to the decision of the court, in this case, the Respondent in his legal position has mentioned that the reporter, while interviewing the residents, has reasonably taken measures to verify the truthfulness of the fact, and only then has published the article. In response to the position of the Plaintiff that the Respondent party should have clarified from the Plaintiff the size of the money suggested to the resident and only then publish the article, the Respondent suggests that in this case this is not a reasonable requirement since the suggestion by the Plaintiff to the residents has been done in oral form, therefore there was no guarantee that the plaintiffs would provide true information to the reporter; in addition, the material was requiring a timely publication, while in case of making a request and receiving the answer thereof the material would lose its timeliness:

The Council considers that the Court could have viewed among the critical facts for solution of the case also those measures taken by the Respondent to clarify the truthfulness and groundings of the pointed out facts, since in case of absence of intention, publications arisen from the public interest that even don’t match reality cannot be punishable, which had essential significance for solution of this case. In this regard, it was appropriate to clarify, in particular, whether the facts about absence of intention presented by the Respondent (in this case, interviews with interested persons) can reasonably be considered satisfactory in order to clarify, prior to publication of the article, the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court. However, the Court has considered that expressions by certain citizens available in records don’t have any evidential value and has removed them from the composition of the evidences.

Fulfilling the requirement of denial

The Plaintiff by letter No 894-27.08.10 has suggested the Respondent to refute the published disinformation and thus rehabilitate the Plaintiff’s violated rights and freedoms in an extrajudicial procedure. The Respondent has published the letter sent by the Plaintiff in Zhamanak daily on 01.09.2010. However, the Plaintiff has considered that the direct publication of the mentioned letter cannot be viewed as denial, given that denial  is not the fact of formal publication of the requirement of the person requiring denial but publication of the content of the denial by the denying person on his/her own behalf. In the case under consideration, in Plaintiff’s opinion, “Zhamanak” daily neither accepted nor  denied the disinformation published by itself, but has published the letter by the Plaintiff requireing denial.

Study of letter 894-27.08.10 by the Plaintiff to the Respondent indicates that with that letter the Plaintiff has requested from the Respondent to publicly apologize both to all Plaintiff’s employees and clients and the residents of Mush-2 quarter in Gyumri.

The Council records that there are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. Moreover, those expressions appeared to prompt the Respondent to publish in this regard an article entitled “They still dare to speak”, which in the particular situation has even further exacerbated the situation thus making the judicial examination of the issue inevitable. However, in the event of more respectful attitude of parties to each other, it would be possible also to solve the problem based in the principle of reaching peace which is the most preferable option in similar cases.

Proportionality of cash compensation

Against the damage caused as a result of defaming expressions (actions), forms of non-material compensation should be applied as a priority. Material compensation should be limited to compensating the direct damage caused to the honor, dignity and business reputation of a person, and it should be assigned only in cases when non material compensation is not sufficient to compensate the caused damage[4].

In regard to this issue, the RA Court of Cassation has recorded that in case of assigning a material compensation it is necessary that the courts pay a great attention to defining the size of the money being compensated and request from the respondents financial and other documents on their incomes presented to state and other competent bodies (for instance, tax reports presented to the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government); otherwise compensations in large amounts can result in grave consequences in terms of continuing their  normal activity.

The Plaintiff has requested to charge 2,000,000  AMD from the Respondent in favor of the Plaintiff as compensation of the damage caused as a consecuence of slander. The Court has considered that the respondent media outlet should be charged 200,000 AMD as compensation, taking into account the method of the slander, the area of dissemination, as well as the material status of the Respondent։ 

Taking into account the above conclusions of the RA Constitutional Court and the RA Court of Cassation, the Counsil considers that applying in this case the measure set out by paragraph 1 of part 8 of Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, i.e. denial of factual data considered a slander through the media outlet having published the information considered a slander, was a quite sufficient measure, especially as the availability of the fact of non material damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff has not been proven both by the Plaintiff and otherwise. The Council records also that in this particular case the equivalence of the amount assigned by the Court, 200,000 AMD, and the size of damage caused to the business reputation of the Plaintiff is not grounded in any form whatsoever.

5. CONCLUSION

The Information Disputes Council considers that:

1) The publication of the information by the media outlet had a public significance, and the disclosure of its information was justified. However, the published material cannot be considered as being presented completely in good faith and balanced;

2) It would be appropriate to observe as facts of essential significance for solution of this case also those measures that were taken by the media outlet to reveal the truthfulness and groundings of the facts pointed out by the Court, since in case of absence of intention by the media outlet, publications arisen from public interest, even if they don’t match reality, cannot be punishable;

3) For solution of this case, denial of the factual data considered as slander would be quite sufficient for compensation of the caused damage;

4) There are expressions in the text of denial presented by the Plaintiff on 27.08.2010 that can in no way be viewed as denial of the factual inaccuracies. The text of Denial and Answer presented to media outlets should refer only to actual inaccuracies present in the information subject to denial and/or answer and must not constitute any insulting expressions. They should meet the requirements regarding denial and answer defined by the law of the RA “On Mass Information”.                              

Information Disputes Council

Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of Council)– President of Freedom of Information Centre
Boris Navasardyan – President of Yerevan Press Club
Aram Abrahamyan – Chief Editor of Aravot daily
Ara Ghazaryan – Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” Layers’ Office
Manana Aslamazyan – Director of “ArmMedia” program




[1] See paragraph 6 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See paragraph 7 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011
[4] See paragraph 11 of the decision of the RA Constitutional Court ՍԴՈ-997 of November 15, 2011.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Commentary

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

The writer describes the members of the group as “gun-toting defendants” driving flashy cars “and connected to elaborate schemes in bank fraud, identity theft and other highly sophisticated white-collar crimes.”

Armenian Power originated in the 1980s by young Armenians, mainly from Soviet Armenia, to protect themselves from Mexican gangs in Los Angeles high schools. In time the organization developed working relations with the latter and shifted focus from fighting for territory to fighting for money and power.

My initial reaction to the report, like to all things Armenian, is visceral. Besides the fact that the horrific nature of the group’s actions turns my stomach, I feel angry. There are many positive contributions Armenians make to the communities they live in, so why point out the negative?

I think and catch myself in doing something very typically Armenian: reacting defensively when a non-Armenian criticizes my people. I immediately want to blame someone, mainly the person who is pointing a finger in my direction. This is a natural reaction for those of us who take pride in belonging to a lineage older than Noah’s Ark.

Ancient is the Armenian archetype – our intuitive behavior that has proven to withstand the test of time. We’ve been around so long, we consider ourselves to be wise and flawless. It is in our ethnic genome to revere the old and be doubtful of the new, to respect the elder as authority and dismiss the young as naive and inexperienced, to move in time and space, but not leave the past and the home we left behind. Any divergence from what has history and is the norm, we perceive as deficient, abnormal, lacking.

Young Armenians in American public schools faced with anything but the norm, as they know it, are caught by surprise like objects uprooted by cyclonic winds.

When life throws us into the realm of the unexpected or takes us out of our element, when it forces us to question our truths and face our shortcomings that make us seem not so perfect, we feel ashamed and become unforgiving. This quickly leads us on to the path of self-loathing. Our genesis, the very thing that is the source of our pride and the reason for our being, becomes our handicap in the youth-crazed, ever changing culture of the new world. We feel betrayed.

Additionally, we have been conditioned to put on our best face in public, regardless of what is going on inside. This archetype was reinforced during the Soviet era. We do not air our dirty laundry in public, but proudly display our clean, shiny load in front of our balconies and windows literally and figuratively. We even pride ourselves in the way we pin the pieces next to each other on the clothesline!

So, regardless of our circumstances, we find ways to put on a front like the well choreographed parades of the Soviet government. For God’s sake, we were the first people to adopt Christianity as our state religion! Never mind that our church is void of spirituality and our God cares more about the dead than the living.

Then we boast, and when others dare to not appreciate our genius with expected enthusiasm, we resort to demeaning, deprecating commentary and are not shy about projecting our negative feelings. No one is good enough, smart enough, deserving enough as Armenians. We’re the oldest and the wisest, and therefore most deserving of respect and appreciation.

More than once I have had to counsel a distraught Armenian parent complaining about how people make fun of their perfect child because he/she does not look or act like them.

When our expectations are not met, we are wounded and insulted. This is when the daredevil gene kicks in, and we don’t hesitate to give our perceived enemy a piece of our mind, or show off a flexed muscle.

We call this taseeb (honor): a sentiment that forces an Armenian to pick up a rifle and defend his physical and psychological turf. It is the same sentiment that drives a young Armenian to defend himself from insults and aggression, real or perceived, from a person of a different ethnicity in an American high school.

These archetypes are some of the underlying factors that lead Armenian youth into conflicting situations outside their circles.

In a new and changing world, old archetypes no longer serve the needs of the people, while the new ones are constantly elusive. Coupled with the desire to belong and to fit in, this drives people to adopt clichés that are readily available in a world congested with material, ideas and attitudes. Thus, to be accepted by the out-groups, to measure up and to be competitive, they quickly adopt what is more accessible to them for putting on the “perfect face.”

Designer clothing and accessories, Mercedes, BMW, Porches, attitudes and gestures we don’t quite grasp but admire, just about anything that we perceive as distinguishing and defining the out-group we are so eager to be a part of and be appreciated by, we collect. Clichés are easy to launder, polish, and pin on one’s life’s “clothes line”. Life in the new world becomes a long string of clichés.

In the absence of archetypes, reality is re-imagined, improvised like life on a theater stage, Marshall McLuhan explains. On this stage, young people are the characters of their own show, and there is nothing in the world more important than that until new archetypes take form.

The mafia or its modern day version – gangs that are a common occurrence in societies constantly in flux – is the stage where young people play out their roles. There have been Irish,   Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican gangs in America prior to the Armenians.

Every wave of new arrivals, every wave of change, brings with it a new set of expectations and challenges. While families try to decipher the laws, rules, and traditions of their new environment, the young tend to gravitate towards groups that fill the need for belonging and provide a security network.

Some, more than others, in every group are willing to break rules often to their own detriment while caught between archetypes of the old world and the clichés of the new.

Marineh Khachadour is an educator, writer, researcher working in a public school in Pasadena, California.  She lived in Armenia from 1992-1998. During that time she provided educational services and resources for Armenian women and children including refugees and served as Gender in Development Expert with UNDP, Armenia from 1995-1998.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

“In the past, if water use conditions weren’t met, we couldn’t void the permit, but now we’re making that clear. If the state gives you a water use permit with this condition, be kind and meet this condition; otherwise, we will make the permit null and void,” he explained.

A new requirement in the proposed package concerning the execution of drilling operations stipulates that a drilling company or individual must obtain a license so that the state can supervise its activities. “Those companies that execute drilling must have a license for drilling. That is, we are proposing to license activities,” he added.

After the relevant state bodies discuss and submit their opinions regarding the amendments, Narimanyan says, the package will be sent to the RA Ministry of Justice, the government, then finally to parliament.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Karabakh war veterans’ civil standoff has been unprecedented. Although, every now and then on different occasions they had complained of their social conditions and of being neglected by the state , however never before had they come out to hold systematic rallies and sitting strikes. Retired army colonel Volodya Avetisyan initiated the civil standoff in May and in October found himself behind the bars, with charges of “swindling …in large amounts”. Avetisyan’s and his comrades-in-arms claim that by bringing charges the authorities are trying to silence him. The war vets demanding increase of their pensions and various privileges have now focused their struggle on various acts of protest in Avetisyan’s support. There is another group of Karabakh war veterans presenting political demands to the government. Every Thursday they hold small rallies in Liberty Square and demand that the government resign.

Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan’s decision to raise public bus fare by 50 percent made the hot Yerevan summer even hotter.

The decision was immediately followed by a civil movement when numerous young activists held a variety of acts of protest during five consecutive days relentlessly struggling, rebelling against the bus fare increase and made the municipal government in the Armenian capital heed the people’s voice, forcing them to understand they would not pay more for using the overloaded, worn-out and hardly functioning minibuses.

The unified effort yielded results and on July 26 the mayor suspended the application of his decision temporarily, meaning that the buses and minibuses continued operating for the same 100 dram fare (around 24 cents). The mayor, however, stated that if residents of Yerevan wanted to have decent public transport services, they have to be ready to pay more. Municipal officials and transport companies running the routes have repeatedly stated after the summer civil standoff that the rise of bus fare is unavoidable, grounding it by the fact that everything else has become more expensive except for public transport services, hence their expenses have grown and they are operating at a loss.

The departing year has turned out to be rather active also in terms of public protests against controversial construction projects. In August, residents of 10 and 12 Sayat-Nova Avenue and 5 Komitas streets, in Yerevan, rebelled against construction in their neighborhoods. These people claim that the construction licenses in densely populated zones of the city are illegal, violate the seismic resistance norms, and block their light. Despite the variety of measures the residents have resorted to, even lying down in front of construction machines to block their way, no tangible results have been achieved; their struggle is ongoing (h).

Despite a drawn-out battle to preserve unchanged Yerevan’s Pak Shuka (“Covered Market”), on the list of historical-cultural heritage and belonging to businessman MP Samvel Alexanyan, opened its doors after two years of repairs, but now as a fashionable supermarket, rather than the produce market it used to be. Although ruling Republican MP Alexanyan kept the fa

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Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

During the year there has been an ongoing debate in Armenia and other post-Soviet countries about whether it is expedient “to revive a new Soviet empire” under the name of a Eurasian Union. But at the end of the year plans to create such a union remain relevant – in May 2014 Armenia is going to be one of the six founders of the Eurasian Union (along with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

Before September 3, Armenia was actively engaged with Europe, stating about shared values and ‘civilizational’ approaches. Armenia even dared reproach Russia for selling offensive weapons to Azerbaijan.

After September 3, however, Armenia suddenly remembered its centuries-old friendship with Russia as well as Russia’s ‘salutary’ role. Pro-Russian rhetoric increased and some even stated the readiness to return to the Russian Empire. In particular, publicist Zori Balayan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, mentioning the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, according to which, as a result of the Russian-Persian war, Persia renounced claims to Karabakh that went under Russia’s control.

The Russia-West struggle for post-Soviet countries, including for Armenia, in 2013 came out of its passive phase and acquired the character of an open confrontation. In the course of this battle all methods were employed – from economic blackmail to high-level visits. In particular, the visit by Putin to Armenia on December 2, as some analysts say, marked Armenia’s losing another portion of its sovereignty and security to Russia.

There have been some new developments in the Karabakh settlement process as well. In particular, on November 19, in Vienna, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, met for the first time in almost two years. During the meeting some new proposals were apparently discussed. The talks were confidential, but on the basis of available information experts assume that Russia and Turkey are promoting the project of opening the Turkish-Armenian border at the expense of Armenia’s concessions on two districts around Karabakh. The U.S. and Europe appear to insist on settlement and opening of communications while maintaining the current status quo in Karabakh.

Partially this version was confirmed on the eve of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to Yerevan on December 12 (he was attending a regional organization’s forum in the Armenian capital). The Turkish press openly reported the offer from Turkey, but President Sargsyan did not receive Davutoglu, while Minister Edward Nalbandian stated that preconditions are unacceptable in Armenian-Turkish normalization.

The sudden change in the policy of Armenia, according to analysts, could lead to some adjustments in the positions of Armenia on relations with Turkey. At the beginning of 2013 Yerevan set up a commission to study possible legal claims to Turkey. The body was headed by the then Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepyan. It was followed by assumptions that in 2015, when the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be marked, Armenia, with the support of the West, intends to advance serious claims to Turkey. However, the commission has not yet taken any public steps, and after September 3 decisions on claims to Turkey may already be made through Moscow.

Turkey has made no secret of its concern, especially in connection with the probability of combined Kurdish and Armenian claims. In this regard, Turkey has launched a wide-ranging process of reconciliation with the Kurds. 2013 became auspicious also for the Kurdish movement as the prospect of establishing Kurdistan became even closer.

The agreement on the conflict in Syria became an important event of the year also for Armenia in view of the sizable ethnic Armenian community in this Middle Eastern country. In accordance with this agreement, the world power centers decided not to support any side in the Syrian conflict, to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and lead the country to democratic elections in 2014.

An even more significant agreement was reached by the end of the year on Iran’s nuclear program, which immediately led to the lifting of a number of sanctions that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic by the West and its activation in regional politics. In particular, Iran immediately tried to offer natural gas to Armenia that would apparently be less expensive than Russia’s. Projects in energy and communication sectors have also become more relevant in view of the recent developments and Armenia may play an important role in them.

Source: Armenia NowOriginial Article

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