OPINION On the court case filed by Harutyun Sargsyan versus “Tsayg” TV Company

09-07-2013 15:55:51   |   |  Human Rights
1. CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
Harutyun Sargsyan is being accused for the murder of the fiancé of the daughter of former Mayor of
Gyumri. Currently he is under detention. The judicial procedure based on criminal case launched
against him has commenced in the General Jurisdiction Court of Shirak region since 07/12/2012. On
27.12.2012 the first court hearing took place. Currently court investigation is underway with the First
Instance Court. On 27 December 2012, when covering the court’s hearing, the following statements
were made during “Azdarar” news programme of “Tsayg” TV Company in Gyumri: “…Harutyun
Sargsyan has killed Karen Yesayan, fiancé of the daughter of former Mayor of Gyumri with utmost
cruelty, in the area of the monument “Mother Armenia”.
On 31 December 2012, “Tsayg” TV Company stated on its www.tsayg.am website that “the wording
“killed with utmost cruelty” does not coincide with the TV company’s views and opinions and it has
been quoted from the letter by Karen Yesayan’s parents addressed to the RA President on 05
September 2012”1. On 23 January 2013 Sargsyan applied to the Court of General Jurisdiction of
Shirak region demanding that the TV company be obliged to publically apologize and compensate the
damage caused to his dignity and honour in the amount of 300 000 AMD. The court investigation is
currently underway with the same Court.
2. CONCLUSION
Presumption of innocence is a fundamental right enshrined as per Article 21 of the RA Constitution
and no surrender from this right is defined by the Constitution or any other law. Thus the media, as
well as all persons and organizations covered by Armenia’s laws, must just respect this right,
irrespective of any circumstance. In this particular case the TV company’s argument that the public
(1 See: http://tsayg.am/qaxaqakanutyun/2253-ee.html)  statement made by the Company was based on a third party’s statements, cannot serve as a basis for
justifying violation of presumption of innocence. The legal norms under part 6 of Article 1087.1 of
the RA Civil Code, defining that a person can be exempted from liability if his/her statements are the
verbatim and good-faith reproduction of another person’s statements, concern only the cases
involving damage to honour and dignity through insult and defamation. In this particular case the
matter under discussion is presumption of innocence, which is a separate, independent category and
as such, falls out of the legal regulation of Article 1087.1 of the Civil Code.
Generally, both with the force of legislation and traditions, the presumption of innocence is deemed
only as a criminal-judicial category in the Republic of Armenia and although this constitutional
guarantee is very often violated in civil-legal relations, the Civil Code lacks any mechanism for the
protection of this right. Moreover, as per the Civil Code, the presumption of innocence is altogether
not considered to be a subject to civil law protection. As a result, in case of a violated right to
presumption of innocence, the citizens apply to courts seeking protection in the context of Article
1087.1 which is intended for the protection from insult and defamation and thus has a completely
different purpose and subject, therefor cannot provide an effective legal protection mechanism. From
this perspective, an example can be the outcome of the case filed by the accused Gevorg
Hayrapetyan2.
Considering the above-said, the Council finds that “Tsayg” TV company has violated Harutyun
Sargsyan’s presumption of innocence by making a public statement about crime in circumstances,
when at the moment of making the statement Harutyun Sargsyan’s alleged crime had not been
confirmed in a court’s verdict. The Council finds as well that irrespective of the fact that there is no
possibility for legal protection from violation of the right of presumption of innocence in in the
Republic of Armenia, the media should respect this right and demonstrate due constraint when
covering pre-investigation or court investigation of a case.3
 


Information Disputes Council
Shushan Doydoyan (Secretary of the Council )- President of the Freedom of Information
Centre of Armenia;
Manana Aslamazyan
- Director of Alternative Resources in Media program;
Boris Navasardyan - President of the Yerevan Press Club;
Aram Abrahamyan - Chief Editor of "Aravot" newspaper;
Ara Ghazaryan - Deputy Director of "Arni Consult" Law Firm office
2 See, IDC decision No. 11.
3 IBID.
  -   Human Rights
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