Case Concerning “Iravunk” Newspaper

Free Speech or Hate Speech?
iravunq datSixteen plaintiffs filed a civil action suit against Iravunk Newspaper for defamation and slander. The Court of Kentron and Nork-Marash General Jurisdiction ruled against the plaintiffs in favor of the defendant, Hovhannes Galajyan. Judge Ruben Nersisyan was the presiding judge and delivered the verdict. The case was then reviewed by the Court of Appeals, however, they rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and ruled in favor of the initial verdict.


On May 17, 2014, the Editor in Chief of “Iravunk” newspaper, Hovhannes Galajyan, released an article on their website titled, “They serve the interests of international homosexual lobbying: the blacklist of country’s and nations enemies.” In his article, Mr. Galajyan not only blacklisted 60 people, but he also shared hyperlinks to each of their Facebook pages. Many of the individuals listed were employees of various non-governmental organizations representing the LGBT community. Mr. Galajyan wrote very offensive statements that were discriminatory, discredited their professional reputations, and defamed their characters. He also urged for “normal” people to stop communicating with them, to not engage in any business relations, and to fire them under any convenient pretext.

The plaintiffs sent a letter to the President of “Iravunk” newspaper, Haik Babukhanyan, on May 30, requesting that the newspaper retract the article and deny the accusations. However, the request was denied and another article was published four days later titled, “And they still dare to request denial?”. The following articles presented more inaccurate and insulting remarks. Additionally, private information and pictures of the plaintiffs were also released, putting them in a very vulnerable situation. The articles were spread through many social media networks, gaining a lot of publicity; therefore, the community now considers them as traitors of the state, since they were labeled as enemies.

The 16 plaintiffs that filed a suit against the newspaper demanded 5 million AMD ($12,200) in retribution and a retraction. However, the court did not rule in their favor, instead they were the ones required to make a payment. The Judge ordered the plaintiffs to pay 150,000 AMD to Mr. Galajyan for his lawyer fees, as well as pay another 150,000 AMD to the newspaper. The defendant’s lawyer initially had asked for each plaintiff to pay 35,000 AMD to accommodate the legal fees, however, that amount was not granted.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, the plaintiffs appealed the decision of the First Instance Court. The case was heard by the Court of Appeals, however, the verdict maintained unchanged. The plaintiffs legal team motioned to introduce new evidence, demonstrating that the wording used in the articles is hate speech. The Judge denied the request stating that if the First Instance Court did not review the evidence then it cannot be newly introduced. However, it was impossible for the evidence to be introduced before since the material was published after the verdict was announced. The Court of Appeals did not reverse the initial verdict and instead increased the amount the plaintiffs had to pay by 100,000 AMD. 50,000 AMD was allocated to the lawyer and 50,000 AMD to the newspaper, so a total of 400,000 AMD was to be paid to the defendant.

This case was petitioned to be heard by the Court of Cassation, however, the request was denied.

Out of the 60 individuals that were blacklisted, three of them, Grigor Gevorgyan, Arman Sahakyan, and Hovhannes Mkrtchyan, were representatives of the New Generation NGO. Therefore, they decided to pursue their own lawsuit against “Iravunk” newspaper and surprisingly won.

This case is very similar to the 16 plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit because in both instances the plaintiffs requested compensation and a retraction. The presiding judge in this case was Arayik Melkumyan. On May 14, 2015, Judge Melkumyan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, however he did not grant all of their demands. For instance, the representatives of New Generation requested that they each receive 3 million AMD ($7,000), as well as have the verdict published on their website. Instead, the Judge ordered that the representatives each be compensated 250,000 AMD ($526) and that the newspaper was not required to publish the verdict.

Despite the fact that “Iravunk” means “right”, the newspaper does not appear to protect or value human rights, instead they possess discriminatory view points and tarnish people’s reputations.

Written by Sona Movsisyan.
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