International Media Watchdog slams Armenia’s “libel suits”

Reporters without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern over the recent libel actions brought against Armenian newspapers.

The organization says the damages demanded in those suits are “disproportionate” and threaten the survival of independent media while encouraging self-censorship.

“This tendency to use lawsuits to throttle news media must be reined in,” RSF has said in a statement released on Sunday.

“The repeal of jail sentences for libel and slander in April 2010 was hailed as a democratic advance but judicial harassment of the media continues. There were 12 defamation actions during the first quarter of 2011 alone,” the watchdog has said. “Independent newspapers are the leading targets. The daily Jamanak is currently the subject of three different lawsuits. Haykakan Jamanak and Hraparak are also being sued.”

RSF stresses that former president Robert Kocharian and his family are frequent plaintiffs and promises to follow all those cases closely.

The organization also says Media self-regulation should be developed in Armenia, and when legal actions are brought, the courts should respect the principle of proportionality when awarding damages.