The Devil’s Advocate

Lawyer Artur Grigoryan | փաստաբան Արթուր Գրիգորյան

Lawyer Artur Grigoryan

An Armenian lawyer has filed a suit against “Hraparak” daily newspaper for not moderating readers’ comments on the paper’s online version, which supposedly damage the lawyer’s reputation and which he c onsiders offensive.

Lawyer Artur Grigoryan is demanding 18 million Armenian Drams (around $47 thousand US) in damages from the newspaper. Considering the tight budgets on which Armenian newspapers run these days, this amount should be enough to shut down “Hraparak” for good.

"Hraparak" Daily | <Հրապարակ» օրաթերթThe daily is no stranger to libel and defamation lawsuits brought against it under  Article 1087.1 of the Armenian Civil Code. In fact, this is already the 6th such case against “Hraparak” daily.

In my humble opinion, the newspaper in question is full of unethical and non-journalistic crap and it deserves most of the rulings against it.

However, this particular case filed by lawyer Artur Grigoryan has far greater and more dangerous implications for the Armenian internet sector and freedom of speech in general.

Article 1087.1: Vague and Dangerous

If the court upholds the lawyer’s claim, anyone can take online services and publications to court for user-generated content such as Facebook and blog comments, photos, videos, blog posts, Wikipedia edits and comments on its talk page, Foursquare and Yelp restaurant reviews about this or that hotel and restaurant.

The Criminal Code’s article in question is very vague and has provisions, according to which an organization or person running/owning the medium where the offensive content appears can be held liable for anonymous comments. It is also very broad, hence, if someone anonymously paints on your house’s wall offensive comments about your neighbor or say the President, you can be taken to court, because you own the property.

RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan challenged the provisions of the RA Civil Code Article on Insult and Defamation in the Constitutional Court.  He asked the Court to recognize the provisions of Article 1087.1 as unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court rejected the Ombudsman’s appeal and only advised the lower courts to be more cautious in handling libel lawsuits filed against media and generally avoid imposing hefty fines on them.

Translated to Armenian reality, this means it is ok to continue “punishing” the opposition newspapers and so on.

Bloggers Move to Protect Their Freedom of Speech

The Constitutional Court’s decision has triggered a protest campaign by Armenian bloggers. Led by one of Armenia’s top bloggers Samvel Martirosyan, a number of blogs have chosen to republish the comments that led “Hraparak” daily to court.

I have officially joined the campaign by publishing those  comments on my Armenian language blog at www.ditord.net.

Article 1087.1 – here we come!

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5 thoughts on “The Devil’s Advocate

  1. wow, Hayastan is a nazi/al-qaeda nation now?
    communism is still alive in Hayastan
    apparently freedom of speech doesn’t exist in my homeland

    so what happens if I were to stand in front of parliament, in haraparak, or in front of serjik perjiks home while holding sign that reads SERJIK IS A PEDOPHILE & MURDERER or something to that extent? what’s will he do? sue me for millions??? pfff…Lmfaoooooooo go ahead ara sue me, you wont see 1 penny. best you can do is throw me in jail for few days, no problem wouldn’t be my 1st time anyway. I got nothing to lose :)

    then how about we can sue google & youtube for allowing trillions upon trillions of comments published on visible public videos slandering/libeling everyone and everything on this planet

    its one thing a publication (on paper or online) publishes an intentional false story/rumor or stories from sources that can’t be proven etc etc….but its another if you cant control most comments posted/published on your web site that could be visible for hours & days until you are able to read & edit them. unless you activate “comment moderation” where you can control all comments published or not, like how Observer does to me :(

    I will have to throw my support to Haraparak daily for freedom of speech, regardless of their published content

    • We know it’s not gonna be your first time in jail, we can conclude that from your comments on this blog. It’s people like you who are giving Armenians everywhere a bad reputation.

  2. This is actually good. It will clarify the legal approach to Web 2.0 in Armenia.

    Locally, in my state there was a lawsuit like this (a businessman suing a newspaper for the readers’ comments published on their website). The lawsuit was thrown out by the judge as contradictory to the Freedom of Speech.

    Armenia needs to clarify this as well.

  3. Actually, some of the existing blog hosts, including Facebook et al, have a strict legal code. But many people overlook this codes, until the administrators just disconnects the abusers from the social network.
    Given the current web garbage websites, it is more likely that we are advocating “Freedom of Fucking each other” rather than “Freedom of Speech”.

    This lawyer is one of the few brave lawyers that has adhered to his Armenian Identity and Responsibility as a true Armenian. It is ironic how we Armenians are dealing with our best intellectuals.
    I am not surprised at all, for “…Mass idiocy is immune to their own deeds, that’s why it’s called The Mob”.
    A knife is a knife, it’s up to the actor to use it in a good way (e.g. in kitchen) or a bad way (e.g. stab your brother). And when some one uses the knife in a bad way, I believe it would be wise to intervene. The same goes without saying about the tongue (which incidentally has no bones).

  4. Article 1087.1, as well several dozen articles including the Article about the Nation’s official language, were put into RoA constitution, based on the norms of United Nation and European Union. This same article is in force in Europe, USA, and many other democratic regions.
    The current Armenian Government would like very much to eliminate such functional articles, in order to have more dictatorial freedom to control the masses. By killing this article, the people will suffer even more.
    Incidentally, one of the comments on this website is blaming Arthur Grigoryan about the tearing of monuments and cultural buildings in Yerevan. This claim is blunt ignorance, and it is indeed very tragic, since it was this brave lawyer who was continuously fighting the demolition of several hundred residences in the heart of Yerevan city. There are several documentary videos on this behalf, where this same lawyer was actively involved. Before, jumping to such tragic ignorant claims, please do some research on Google about the person that happens to be your next “victim”.

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