Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash Districts Court of First Instance Judge Ruben Nersisyan decided to reject the suit by the 16 citizens against Iravunk newspaper. The subject of the suit was Iravunk paper’s editor Hovhannes Galajyan’s (pictured on left) article titled “Those Serving the International Homosexual Lobby Interests; the Nation and State’s Enemy Blacklist” (the Armenian word used for homosexual in the article is a pejorative word translated to "homosexual fanatic" and was used officially during the USSR). The citizens demanded an apology due their honor and dignity being sullied, to publish a retracting piece, and be compensated 5 million dram for moral damages.
In the article, the author listed 60 individuals in a “blacklist” and their personal Facebook page’s hyperlinks and urged readers to show "zero tolerance" toward them, terminating all contact, not hiring them, and removing them from civil service. The side not only considers the qualification of being “national and state traitors” as hurtful but also the word “zombie”, which according to the State Language Inspectorate is defined as unknowingly implementing the will of an evil force. Nersisyan not only rejected the lawsuit, but also obliged the 16 citizens to compensate 150,000 AMD ($365) for Iravunk’s lawyer fees and compensate the same amount in favor of Hovhannes Galajyan.
After the judge read the verdict nearly ten people began clapping in favor of the decision. Among them was “Iravunk Media” company director, Republican Party faction MP Hayk Babukhanyan (pictured on right), who just last week was awarded the Movses Khorenatsi Medal by President Serzh Sargsyan for the 25th anniversary of the Iravunk paper.
When speaking to journalists, Babukhanyan said that “certain people have tried to pursue others for their expressed opinions, which should not be allowed in the Republic of Armenia.” According to the MP, such pursuits are a violation of the constitution.
“We are obliged to protect all citizens’ freedom to express their opinion,” said Babukhanyan.
The Helsinki Association human rights defender organization president Mikayel Danielyan stated that the verdict was not surprising for him after the country’s president “made a move in favor of Iravunk Media” He recalled that the same took place before Shant Harutyunyan’s verdict, when Serzh Sargsyan stated that it was hooliganism. One of the plaintiffs, Nvard Margaryan, similarly considered the verdict as natural; however, she also noted that Serzh Sargsyan awarded the Khorenatsi medal to the “patrons of the fascist paper in order to disseminate hatred and prejudice.”
Margaryan noted that the plaintiffs are prepared to protest the verdict.