On the 15th of November, HRD's appeal on the compliance of the Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code referring to the RA Law on Defamation and Insult will be reviewed at the RA Constitutional Court via oral procedure.
After the decriminalization of the articles of defamation and insult the number of suits against the media has risen, especially the cases where the amount of compensation can threat the existence of that media.
In the RA courts there are more than 30 cases with defamation and insult charges against the mass media. The review of many of these cases has been temporarily suspended and the decision of the Constitutional Court is being awaited.
"When reading each article, I think what suit is hidden behind each line. The freedom of speech is not defaming or insulting people. There are such suits that they make it difficult to judge logically. Yesterday the lawyer demanded 18 million drams for the comments posted in our website by our reader. Which is eventually the limit of freedom of speech?" asked the editor of "Hraparak" newspaper Armine Ohanyan during the workshop "Media Today".
With the last suit against "Hraparak" newspaper lawyer Arthur Grigoryan demands 18 million drams for insulting phrases found not in the article itself, but in the comment of one of the readers made below the article.
The decision of the court can be precedent and therefore in the internet any comment made in newspaper's website, personal blog or social network can become a subject for filing a lawsuit.
"Journalists sometimes think that they are always right".
"We managed to review only four out of 30 cases that are in the court. When reading the articles, I thought that if I were in the place of people about whom such things were written, I would also suit them. We can complain that the officials are bad, but let's start from ourselves", said the project manager of Alternative Media Manana Aslamazyan.
During the discussion the participants also raised the question of journalistic ethics and professionalism, mentioning that if the journalist approaches his/her job professionally, the number of lawsuits against them will decrease.
"When we speak about defamation in case of media, not only corresponding law is necessary, but also presence of journalistic ethics. Quite often the journalists think that the truth belongs only to them, but there should be diplomatic approach towards their target. The latter also has rights. The rights of both journalists and targets should be in balance", thinks the Head of Belgium Union of Journalists Vim Kril.
During the workshop "Media Today" international and Armenian experts developed suggestions, particularly one of them offers the government to decrease the amount of compensation for defamation and insult, in order this amount did not threaten the existence of the media. They also suggest that particularly in cases of the media the RA Courts were guided by the precedents of the European Court of Human Rights. The suggestion to the media was to follow ethics and work more professionally.
P.S. "Media today" was the second workshop of the "European Union-Armenia Human Rights in the Civil Society" seminar organized on November 8-9.