13 December, 2014

DECEMBER 10, HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

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Category: Discrimination, European Action Week
Gubaz Koberidze
4 pm

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Written by: Lusine Ghazaryan 

16 Activists Sue an Armenian Newspaper for Spreading Hate Speech: Armenian court interprets Hate Speech in the frames of Freedom of Expression

On 17th of May, 2014, the editor-in-chief of  Armenian newspaper ”Iravunk” (hereinafter the newspaper) published an article on the newspaper’s website titled ”They serve the interests of international homolobbying propaganda: the blacklist of country’s and nation’s enemies.” In the article, the author presents a ”blacklist” containing Facebook hyperlinks of 60 people, makes offensive statements addressed to those persons and calls for specific discriminatory actions against them. 16 out of these 60 people agreed to file a joint civil complaint against the newspaper for damaging their honor and dignity which has been followed by a dozen of other articles by the newspaper targeting these 16 applicants individually, publishing their data, offending and presenting them in a negative way.

The complaint, which was about the compensation of damage caused to honor and dignity, asking the Court to obligate the respondents to publicly apologize from applicants and to pay compensation of certain amounts of money in favor of the 16 applicants, was rejected by the Court, which reasoned its rejection on the grounds of the right to freedom of expression of the chief-editor of “Iravunq” newspaper and the public interest in the case.

The Court reasoned that the alleged expressions by the applicants do not infer to cause any damage to honor and dignity thus are not defamatory. While the statements in the article are somehow exaggerated, however, they are in line with the rights of the journalist, the freedom and the professional approach of who can also include exaggeration and provocation.

The Court noted that the statements made by the newspaper was of much interest to the society, as it was discussing the Facebook press-conference of Armenian famous singers, who were discussing the disgust and intolerance against the winner of Eurovision Song Contest Conchita, as announced earlier by the singers.

This article was only one manifestation of homophobic, intolerant and discriminatory content in mass media in Armenia. Bias motivated and discriminatory speech forms an integral part of the latter. Armenia lacks effective mechanisms for hate speech and incitement to discrimination to be effectively addressed. The only remedy available on national level in this case is the public apology for causing damage to honor and dignity, where the factor of discrimination based on association with LGBT people, hate speechwere ignoredby the court.

By its decision the Court just “ignored” the essence and the basis of this article and failed to foresee the possible negative consequences related to freedom, inviolability and safety of the applicants that may follow shortly.

However, this case, which also engaged wider society and media to discuss the issue, is still on the appeal process, where the public support both on national and international level is very much encouraged by the applicants and by Armenian human rights activists as well.

 

For further information, visit:

–          http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/2014/11/cs-on-state-sponsored-discrimination/

–          http://www.pinkarmenia.org/en/2014/07/iravunknewspaper/

–          http://www.epress.am/en/2014/11/05/discrimination-in-armenia-is-encouraged-on-a-state-level-statement.html

–          http://www.epress.am/en/2014/10/31/259295.html

–          http://www.epress.am/en/2014/10/21/journalist-continued-to-offend-armenian-lgbt-rights-activists-in-court.html

 

 

 


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