ARMENIAN EDITORS DEMAND REPEAL OF LIBEL LAW
Oct 19 2011
Armenia – Copies of newspapers whose editors called on October19,
2011 for a repeal of controversial legislation that led to a sharp
increase in libel suits.
The editors of eight leading Armenian newspapers added on Wednesday
their voice to calls for the Constitutional Court to repeal
controversial legislation that has led to a sharp increase in libel
suits filed against media outlets.
The state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, last week asked
the court to look into corresponding articles of Armenia’s Civil Code
and consider declaring them unconstitutional. He expressed serious
concern about their active enforcement by Armenian courts.
Amendments to those articles enacted last year decriminalized libel
but drastically toughened financial penalties for such offences. At
least 15 libel suits have since been filed by current and former
government officials, including former President Robert Kocharian,
and government-linked businessmen.
In a joint statement, the newspaper editors urged the Constitutional
Court to at least suspend those clauses pending consideration
of Andreasian’s petition. They said the Armenian authorities have
used the changes with the sole aim of strangling independent media
financially or introducing self-censorship among journalists.
Bagrat Yesayan, editor of the “Yerkir” daily and one of the
signatories, said press freedom in Armenia is under serious threat.
“There is a danger that in the very near future we will have a
situation where print media outlets, unable to comply with court
decisions and pay heavy libel damages, will have to shut down. In that
case the print media landscape will simply disappear in this country,”
he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Ashot Melikian of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech welcomed
the appeals to the country’s highest judicial body. But he suggested
that the legal provisions, no matter how unfair, can hardly be deemed
“It’s just that there are unclear clauses there that can be interpreted
in a subjective way,” Melikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.