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“Journalism is Not Writing Pretty Things”: Local Newspaper Iravunq in Dispute with Shant TV

Shant TV and local daily Iravunq regularly argue over the newspaper's published articles, and taking these disputes to court has become a tradition. Either the TV station itself or its director, Artur Yezekyan, has taken the matter to court several times already, accusing the paper of defamation and insult.

Representing the TV station's interests, Vahagn Grigoryan says that Iravunq has been publishing articles insulting Artur Yezekyan since 2006. The case reached the courts for the first time in 2007, with the court ruling that the plaintiff's rights were violated. There are three other cases against Iravunq currently pending in various courts, two of which were combined into a single proceeding. Yezekyan believes the paper defamed him both in a column called "Panjuni" and in an article titled "Who is Shant's Leader" and is demanding 4 million AMD (about $9,800 USD) as compensation for moral damages. In the "Panjuni" column, Iravunq wrote: "Shant is looking for a calf beneath Yezekyan" and "No matter how much Shant's head is cooked, Yezekyan remains raw."

In the article "Who is Shant's Leader," Vardan Ghazaryan, who is identified as Yezekyan's aunt's fiancé, told the newspaper that, thanks to him, Yezekyan took out a loan to establish the TV station, after which he began to avoid Ghazaryan. In addition, Ghazaryan said, his wife became so stressed from an argument with Yezekyan that she ended up in the hospital.

As told to Epress.am by Levon Baghdasaryan, representing Iravunq's interests in court, Iravunq doesn't have a specific personal attitude toward Shant TV or Yezekyan. According to the attorney, one shouldn't run to the courts over every news piece. 

"Journalism is not writing pretty things — sometimes it has to shock [people]," said Baghdasaryan. 

He said the verdict's already out in one of the last cases: the court believed the absence of defamation in the article was proven but considered the lexicon used in the article as insulting and offensive. 

"This was about the article where Iravunq wrote that Shant TV is making people work but isn't paying them. The court considered this fact proven but said that the word 'cheating' used in the article was insulting. That is to say, the claim was partially satisfied. We will appeal to the Court of Appeal," said Baghdasaryan. 

Commenting on the two cases combined in a single proceeding, the attorney said: "We responded to the plaintiff with two justifications: first, Iravunq wrote that which a citizen described — why should the news outlet be called as a respondent [in the case]? Second, Panjuni is a humor, satirical section, and there can't be a connection with insult," he said.

Recall, several NGO representatives launched a lawsuit against Iravunq last week. The reason for going to court was an article Iravunq published on its website on May 17, 2014, with the headline: "They serve the interests of the international homosexual lobby: Black list of enemies of the state and nation" [the term used for “homosexual” was derogatory, akin to “faggot” in English]. The article lists the names of 60 people, with hyperlinks to their Facebook profiles and urges its readers to show "zero tolerance" toward them, terminating all contact, not hiring them, and removing them from civil service.

The plaintiffs are asking for a public apology from Iravunq (to be published on the paper's website), as well as 5 million AMD (a little over $12,000 USD) in compensation for the injury.