“All of you are immoral”, said Shushan Petrosian, MP from the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and famous singer, in the parliament, responding to a question of Ruzanna Stepanian, correspondent from Armenian Service of Radio Liberty, on May 17 shooting in Yerevan downtown.
Correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” newspaper also got insulted as she stepped into the conversation. “Go away”, Shushan Petrosian threw to the journalist.
On the same day, on May 19, Margarit Yesayan, MP from the ruling RPA and former journalist, on her Facebook page apologized to journalists, primarily to Ruzanna Stepanian for the “upsetting incident”. Margarit Yesayan believes that what happened between the journalist and the MP was “a misunderstanding”, as “Shushan did not want to offend anyone or anyone’s profession”. Margarit Yesayan added that Vahram Baghdasarian, the head of the RPA faction, also apologized to Ruzanna Stepanian. Margarit Yesayan expressed confidence that Shushan Petrosian “will respond adequately” as well.
Later on, “Zhoghovurd” newspaper posted on its website a video interview with Shushan Petrosian, in which the MP stated that her words were not intended as a personal insult to Ruzanna Stepanian. Speaking of immorality she had in mind the workstyle of journalists. The MP does not like when her interviews are accompanied with readers’ offensive comments, and this is what she finds immoral. Shushan Petrosian stressed that over the past two years (Ed. Note: most likely since she is an MP) journalists spoiled her life with their fabrications. To the question of “Zhoghovurd” what specific piece offended Shushan Petrosian, the MP answered: “Shall I be telling you about those pieces? Go and find yourself.”
Mher Sedrakian, MP from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), again insulted a journalist. This time it was the correspondent from Tert.am.
The incident took place on May 22 at the parliament, after the discussion of the newly appointed Government’s program. According to Tert.am, their correspondent approached the MP with a question and received curses and insults as an answer. Tert.am noted that they have a video footage of the incident, but the online newspaper “would yet abstain from publishing dirty accusations against the journalist”, as the MP’s vocabulary “does not correspond the norms of decency, ethics and even humanity”.
Tert.am also stressed that it is not the first time when Mher Sedrakian insults journalists. In December 2012 the MP treated badly “A1+” correspondent Mher Arshakian. Later, Sedrakian issued a statement in which he expressed regret for his words which were told in “nervous condition”, but apologies were not expressed.
Tert.am hopes that the MP will think over his behavior and apologize to their correspondent; otherwise, the online newspaper “will resort to justice and employ all the means provided by law to restore the honor and dignity of its employees”.
Notably, this is the second case of inappropriate treatment of journalists by the representatives of parliamentary faction of the ruling party in this week. On May 19, Shushan Petrosian, another RPA MP, told reporters that all of them were immoral (see above). Moreover, no persuasive apologies were voiced by her.
On May 22, MP Araik Grigorian came to the parliament session drunk, and in a conversation with Fnews.am correspondent behaved extremely frivolous, writes Lratu.ru in the piece titled “Come Hug Me and Let’s Go, Said Araik Grigorian to the Journalist”.
Armenia is not an attractive country for investment; almost all sectors of the economy are in “shadow”, said Gagik Khachatrian, Armenian Minister of Finance, and alleged the journalists for the current situation in the country.
On May 20, speaking to parliamentary reporters, the newly appointed Finance Minister expressed an opinion that journalists “obstruct Government’s work with their ‘useless’ articles, hamper implementation of the current programs and undermine the trust of small and medium enterprises towards the Government” (hereinafter quoted from ArmInfo article). “We want to grant benefits to small and medium business, while you undermine their confidence in us with your articles”, Gagik Khachatrian reproached media representatives.
Finance Minister also refuted allegations voiced in his address about his involvement in big business, assuring that he does not own any companies.
Meanwhile, information on businesses of Gagik Khachatrian has been circulated in the media. Reportedly, the Minister is the owner or co-owner of a number of companies, including “Ucom”, taxi services, shopping centers, etc. Prior to his appointment as the head of the RA Ministry of Finance, Gagik Khachatrian chaired Armenian State Revenue Committee (taxes and customs) and is considered to be one of the richest people in the country.
The Police Department of Gavar, the city of Gegharkunik region of Armenia, initiated criminal proceedings under Clause 1, Article 258 (“Hooliganism”) of the RA Criminal Code on the basis of the statement by Ani Hovhannisian, correspondent of Hetq.am – online publication of “Investigative Journalists” NGO.
The incident occurred on May 7 in Gavar, in front of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Gegharkunik, where the hearing of the criminal case with a public outcry took place (the case is a matter of a particular ill-treatment of wife by her husband). When hearing was over, a verbal sparring between Robert Aharonian, the head of “The Essence of Time” Socialist Movement, and a group of defenders of women’s rights broke out. The correspondent of “Hetq” was filming the incident. Apparently, Armen Ghevondian, the taxi driver who brought Robert Aharonian from Yerevan to Gavar, “did not like” this. The driver was trying to block the journalist’s way, insulted, threatened and tried to grab her video camera. Armen Ghevondian’s wife “assisted” him in these actions. (The video footage is published in “Hetq” pieces dealing with the incident.) Talking with YPC, Ani Hovhannisian noted that Robert Aharonian was accompanied by the driver and his wife in previous trips to the trial as well.
On the same day, May 7, Ani Hovhannisian reported the crime to the police. According to the journalist, her statement demanded to bring to justice those responsible for obstructing her professional activities. Meanwhile, the criminal proceedings has been initiated under Article “Hooliganism”, which surprised Ani Hovhannisian. The journalist also said that she had been summoned to the investigator to testify on the matter.
On May 19, the National Assembly of Armenia adopted in the second reading and finally amendments to the RA Civil Code, introducing the institute of compensation for moral damage.
As we have reported, the draft law passed the first reading on May 13, 2014 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 12-18, 2014).
Hereafter, the concept of moral damage and imposition of financial compensation in case of such damage are enacted in the Civil Code.
The absence of legal protection mechanism against moral damage in the current legislation led to unconstitutionality: citizens were deprived of an opportunity to seek material compensation in case of violation of fundamental rights (right to life, right to protection against ill-treatment, and right to liberty and security). This contradicted the RA Constitution and several international agreements ratified by Armenia, as well as impeded the proper execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Media experts, in turn, have repeatedly stressed the urgent need for legislative regulation of the issue on compensation of moral damage caused by libel or insult, as this problem often occurs in trials on defamation in the media.