On May 21, the Information Disputes Council (IDC) adopted an opinion on the case of “Zhoghovurd” daily’s founder, “Editorial Office of ‘Zhoghovurd’ Newspaper” LLC, and the daily’s correspondent Sona Grigorian versus businessman Khachik Khachatrian (owner of “X-group” holding, including “Yerevan Poultry” company).
As we have reported, on December 28, 2012, “Zhoghovurd” went to law when the businessman insulted Sona Grigorian during a telephone conversation: he called her a “prostitute” in reply to “her question, which was not that desirable for him”. The businessman also suggested the journalist publish this word (“‘Zhoghovurd’ Daily Demands Public Apologies from Khachik Khachatrian”, December 22, 2012). Hearings on the case started on April 3, 2013 at Court of General Jurisdiction of Ajapnyak and Davitashen Administrative Districts of Yerevan. On April 29, the Court revoked the demand on public apologies. The Court reasoned the revocation of the suit by the fact that a statement cannot be qualified as insult, unless it is made in public (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 26 – May 2, 2013).
The IDC opinion mentions that protection of citizens, including journalists, from non-public defamatory statements is not regulated by Armenian legislation. Despite the November 15, 2011 RA Constitutional Court’s decision, which called the RA National Assembly to consider this issue, the legal regulation of non-public insult is still pending. The IDC stresses that this court dispute is already the second, where a journalist, having sufficient evidence that an insulting statement has been made about him/her, is deprived of any possibility for legal protection of his/her dignity (this concerns the suit of “Hetq” correspondent Grisha Balasanian versus Ruben Hayrapetian, RA National Assembly MP and Chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia). Such a situation is not acceptable in democratic society, the IDC notes.
The IDC called on the parliament to implement the abovementioned decision of the Constitutional Court and address the legal regulation of the protection from non-public insult, within its legal authority.
At the same time, taking into account the non-action of the National Assembly, IDC called on the RA Court of Appeals (in case “Zhoghovurd” daily’s founder appeals the first instance court’s decision) to suspend the case and apply to the Constitutional Court, questioning the constitutionality of the Paragraph 2.1 of the RA Civil Code, “Procedure and conditions for compensating the damage caused to honor, dignity and business reputation”, since this provision does not envisage any means for protecting individuals from non-public defamatory statements.