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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  3. For the First Time, Court Dismisses Armenian MP’s Lawsuit Against Newspaper
  4. Court delays ruling against Armenian Daily Zhamanak to review case
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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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“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

Related posts:

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  2. US Court Should Be Sued For Ruling Armenian’s Lawsuit Filed in 1930 Groundless: Artak Shakaryan
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  4. Court delays ruling against Armenian Daily Zhamanak to review case
  5. Armenian Genocide Denial Case in Court Today

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

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

“The police will no longer be either arbitrator or guard for all the cunning dubious schemes of gamblers and lottery players,” he wrote. In the past week, the ministry has announced raids on casinos in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.

It was after the Dec. 13 shutdown of one such establishment in Kyiv that the ministry warned of a possible Yanukovych connection.

“It cannot be ruled out that Oleksandr Yanukovych, the ex-president’s son, could be behind this and a lot of other clandestine elite gaming establishments in the capital city through figureheads,” said Zorian Shkiriak, an advisor to Avakov. OCCRP has previously reported on Oleksandr Yanukovych’s connections to illegal coal mining operations in the country.

In his Facebook post, Avakov said the problem should be made into a profitable industry. “Legalize the casino!” he wrote. “Get strict regulations, limited amounts of points and legal billions of hryvnias [Ukraine’s currency] into the state budget, instead of dirty money in the pockets of different people providing cover!”

The 2009 law “On the prohibition of gambling business in Ukraine” was passed after a fire killed nine people and injured 11 others at a gambling hall in Dnipropetrovsk.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

Merchants and small retailers again gathered outside the government building in Yerevan to voice their opposition to the changes in the volume tax law that requires that they keep receipts for all inventory purchases and sales.

In Yerevan, vehicle owners who have bandied together in a group calling itself “Keep Away from Our Pockets” tried to drive through the city in a convoy of cars to protest paid parking spaces many argue is just a ruse for some oligarchs to make money. Police stopped them before getting too far.The bulk of the fines and fees don’t even go to the Yerevan city coffers but is kept as income by the corporation overseeing the parking spots. The drivers are also complaining about traffic fines they say are too exorbitant.

Taking you grievances to the street is a growing trend in Armenia – whether in towns or villages.

The largest and most successful to date were the sustained protests that took place in the summer of 2013 in Yerevan that eventually forced the municipal government to rescind public transportation fare hikes.

But ever since then, demos and protests seem to have lost their verve and vigor and are more and more issue specific. While this is to be expected (those immediately affected by this or that government decision are the first on the streets), the general citizenry once again seem resigned to whatever fate awaits them.

While attempts were made to broaden the participation of these mini-protests and to link their specific interests under some kind of umbrella movement, they proved unsuccessful.

Numbers and mutual solidarity remain elusive. Strategizing and innovative tactics are also lacking.

Three opposition political parties are gearing up for a joint rally on Oct. 10.  Let’s see if it will be more of the same old, same old…

Oct. 1 – Government Reappoints Thug as Syunik Governor

Hetq readers will know that SourikKhachatryan, the publicly disgraced and much maligned former Syunik Provincial Governor, was reinstated to his old job this week. Khachatryan was forced to temporarily step down after being implicated in a June shoot-out near his Goris home in which an Artsakh Army commander was seriously wounded and his brother killed.

Here’s a tit for tat exchange between HAK (Armenian National Congress) MP NikolPashinyan and Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan in parliament regarding Khachatryan’s reinstatement.

Pashinyan (and I paraphrase here) – That man has been charged with expropriation of public property through fraud, auto theft, the beating of several individuals, one incident when he hit a prominent woman in a Yerevan hotel was caught on tape, the beating of a child because he had a quarrel with the father…Recently, this individual murdered a man by shooting him from such a position from his house that the cameras didn’t catch him…”

Abrahamyan – Who is this man you refer to? Oh, SourikKhachatryan. Well, I nominated him for reinstatement based on his years of experience in provincial governance and organizational skills.

The prime minister added: “I’ve also taken into account the wishes of the people of Syunik. Our studies show that a majority want him as their provincial governor.”

Oct. 1 – Diaspora Minister Receives “Good Job” Watch

Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan visited Diaspora Minister HranoushHakobyan at her office bearing gifts. Well, one gift in particular. The PM bestowed Hakobyan with a commemorative “prime ministerial” watch for a job well done.

Now c’mon folks.A stinking watch? A grandfather’s clock would have been more appropriate.

Oct. 1 – Armenia is Getting “Old”

This is the view of GarikHayrapetyan, who heads the Yerevan Office of the UN Population Fund.

On Wednesday, which marked the International Day of the Elderly (we’ll all get there sometime), Hayrapetyan told journalists in Yerevan that 13% of Armenia’s population is over the age of 60. (That’s practically bordering on senility).

Anyway, he claimed that the country is fast approaching what is termed the ranks of “old countries” (you know, where the president or dictator walks around on crutches).

Right now, thank god, Armenia is merely considered “growing old”.

Khachatryan attributes the age imbalance to the fall in the birthrate after independence.

Less young people means less people to take care of the elderly. But I only know of one old-age home in Armenia. Who’s looking after the rest?

Sept. 30 – Aznavour Wants Turks and Armenians to Reconcile Before He Dies

In an interview with RTS (Radio Television of Serbia), Charles Aznavour is alleged to have said he hopes to see Armenians and Turks reconcile before he dies.

Bonne chance, mon ami. 

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

In recent years an agreement has been in place  ensuring that for the sake of party unity,  most senior figures would not be investigated. Zhou’s case has been the first to break the agreement and is aimed at party purity instead. Communists are hoping to stay legitimate and to win more supporters. 

The anti-corruption campaign has realized its vow of no off-limit targets, says political scientist Zhang Ming in The Guardian.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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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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