MEDIA SELF-REGULATION INITIATIVE
On January 9, 2007 Yerevan Press Club issued an address to the media community of Armenia, suggesting to jointly develop the principal norms of professional ethics. YPC expressed a wish that “the norms be acceptable for as many media and journalists as possible and be applied by them in their day-to-day work”.
On February 2, 2007 at the meeting of media representatives, supporting the YPC initiative, a working group was formed that developed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles, narrated in the Appendix to it (in Armenian, in English). These documents were adopted and signed on March 10, 2007 at the meeting of heads of media and journalistic associations.
As of today the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles are signed by 45 entities, representing 48 Armenian media; the initiative is supported by 9 journalistic associations (in Armenian, in English).
At the meeting of March 10, 2007 the Media Ethics Observatory (MEO) was also elected and listed 7 members. At the December 24, 2011 meeting of the representatives of media and journalistic associations it was resolved to expand the composition of MEO up to 14 members (at the same time, each MEO session is attended by 7 of its14 members by a rotation principle). As members of Media Ethics Observatory were elected: Aram Abrahamian (Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily), Gegham Baghdasarian (Chief Editor of “Analyticon” journal), Levon Barseghian (Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists Club of Gyumri), Ara Ghazarian (lawyer), Mesrop Harutyunian (media expert), Gegham Manukian (Director of the News and Current Affairs Programs of “Yerkir Media” TV company), Ashot Melikian (Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression), Emmanuil Mkrtchian (General Director of “ArmInfo” news agency), Mesrop Movsesian (Director of “A1+” TV company), Gnel Nalbandian (Chief Editor of “ArmNews” TV company), Boris Navasardian (President of Yerevan Press Club), Olga Safarian (lawyer), Nouneh Sarkissian (Managing Director of Internews Media Support NGO), Gegham Vardanian (producer of www.media.am).
The media representatives, who signed the Code of Conduct, acknowledge the right of the МEO to examine the conformity of their acts and publications to the provisions of the Code and state their willingness to publish decisions of the MEO in their media.
The mission of the MEO consists in the consideration of complaints and appeals regarding the violations of the Code of Conduct and making judgments on these.
The Regulations of the Media Ethics Observatory were adopted on December 13, 2009. On December 24, 2011 the Regulations were amended (in Armenian).
MEO Contact Information: email@example.com; Tel. +374 10 53 76 62, 53 35 41, 53 00 67; Fax +374 10 53 56 61.
ACTIVITIES OF THE MEDIA ETHICS OBSERVATORY
In 2012 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. On December 27, 2012 the Media Ethics Observatory and the Information Disputes Council (IDC) held a joint session to consider the complaint of Arpi Voskanian versus www.1in.am news portal. On December 10, 2012, Arpi Voskanian addressed a complaint to the MEO, in which she invoked that on December 6, 2012, 1in.am reprinted her poem “Political Riddle”, “without any prior notice, without her consent or any agreement on the size or form of payment”. The poem was initially published in “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily on the same day. Moreover, 1in.am reprinted the poem under its own headline, removing the original title and attaching the photo of one of the Armenian politicians. Besides, the news portal had announced a song competition on the poem’s lyrics, fixing an award of $ 1,500, the complainant stressed. Thus, Arpi Voskanian alleged that her copyrights were violated. According to the complainant, she had requested the Chief Editor of the news portal Arman Babajanian to remove the poem from the website, cancel the song competition and compensate her losses. However, her request was denied, moreover, “the Editor did not even deign to reply her in person”.
Since the complaint touched upon both professional ethics and legal matters, the MEO and the Information Disputes Council adopted a joint expert conclusion.
The conclusion stressed that Point 2.4 of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives requires “to respect copyright, to preclude plagiarism, and to mention the sources whenever quoting or making reprints”. However, this is a minimum requirement for the journalistic materials, since the protection of copyright presumes other obligations, as well. Particularly, a creative work falls under the protection of the RA Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. For the lawful usage of the creative work, not only a reference to the source, but also the author’s consent is required. From this perspective, the MEO stated that the reprinting of Arpi Voskanian’s poem by 1in.am, even though made with a reference to the source, but without securing the author’s consent, violated the norms of journalistic ethics.
As regards the legal aspect of the case, the conclusion stressed that the matter of the dispute is a creative work. Therefore, the author of the work is entitled to some material and non-material rights under the same Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”. Particularly, the author has the right of protecting his/her work from distortions and modifications by third party, and may prohibit the third party to reprint or disseminate the work in any other forms. Proceeding from the above, 1in.am obviously violated the material and non-material rights of the author. Besides, the announcing of a song competition and monetary award may be considered in some cases as interference to the material interests of the author (Article 23 of the Law “On Copyright and Related Rights”), with all the deriving legal effects.
The MEO and IDC called upon the parties of the conflict, Arpi Voskanian and 1in.am, to settle the dispute out-off court. At the same time, they recommended 1in.am to show willingness to listen to Arpi Voskanian and satisfy her demands, as far as possible (in Armenian).
2. Expert Judgment of Media Ethics Observatory of October 9, 2012 on the complaint of Shahen Khachatrian, Director of “Kankor” medical center, regarding some stories of “Horizon” news program of “Shant” TV company (in Armenian, in English).
3. On October 1, 2012 the Media Ethics Observatory held a session to consider the complaint of Anahit Bakhshian, Deputy Director of the National Education Institute, regarding the articles published on the website of “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” daily: “Benzin Rubo and Anahit Bakhshian” (May 4, 2012), “ ‘Heritage’s’ Conspirator” (June 15, 2012) and “Who Are Those Shrunk into Corner?” (July 5, 2012). According to Anahit Bakhshian, the above listed articles contained insulting and libelous statements about her. Since the complaint touched upon both professional ethics and legal matters, the MEO and the Information Disputes Council came up with a joint expert conclusion.
The conclusion noted that since Anahit Bakhshian had not requested a reply or a refutation from “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” daily, it would have been reasonable if she made use of this right. As regards the compliance of disputed articles to ethical norms, the MEO and the IDC held violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives in all three of them. Thus, the articles presented some facts about Anahit Bakhshian. Moreover, two of these articles referred to anonymous sources that quoted some statements allegedly made by Anahit Bakhshian. At the same time, the newspaper did not make any efforts to get some comments from Anahit Bakhshian herself. In this regard, Article 1.1 of the Code stresses: “Prior to publishing, to check the accuracy of information from any source, not to conceal and not to distort facts (...)”. Article 1.2 highlights the need to mention about the inability of verifying facts for an information of public significance, and Article 1.3 obliges the media “to rely on accurate facts when making analysis and comment”. Besides, from a journalistic ethics perspective it is not acceptable that the articles used “circulating rumors” as source of information. This contradicts the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Code, “Integrity in Relations with Sources of Information”, the conclusion pointed out. As regards the legal analysis of the disputed articles, the conclusion stressed that since the limits of critics towards political figures are wider, than in case of private ones, there is an increased level of protection of articles that are of public interest (until recently Anahit Bakhshian was deputy of RA National Assembly). In this sense, the information, published in the “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” articles of June 15 and July 5, 2012, “is not of a discrediting nature and even if it turns out that the information is not accurate, the articles cannot be assessed as defamatory”. Meanwhile, the MEO and IDC found that the May 4, 2012 article contained discrediting information, and thus the media should have proved its accuracy. In the end, the MEO and IDC reminded that courts should be a last resort, and one should seek there remedies when all the other measures are exhausted (in Armenian).
4. Judgment of Media Ethics Observatory of February 17, 2012 regarding the complaint of Anna Simonian on a photo story by Gagik Shamshian “Reportedly, The 38-Years Old Young Man Shot Himself Death”, placed on “Aravot” website (www.aravot.am) on February 7, 2012 (in Armenian, in English).
In 2011 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. On November 2, 2011 the founder of “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” daily, “Trespassers W.” LLC, addressed to MEO for receiving an expert judgment on the article “To Know Pharaoh”, published in “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” on April 9, 2011. The piece was contested at court and contained critical expressions by the artist Sergey Gasparian about the Director of the Armenia National Art Gallery Paravon (Pharaoh) Mirzoyan. Paravon Mirzoyan filed the court of general jurisdiction with a suit on protection of honor and dignity versus the founder of “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” daily and Sergey Gasparian, demanding to refute the information discrediting his reputation, compensate the moral damage of 3 million AMD (about $ 7,900), as well as to pay off the court expenses of 360,000 AMD (about $ 950).
On December 25, 2011 the Media Ethics Observatory rendered the expert judgment on article “To Know Pharaoh”. Even though pointing out some shortcomings of the piece, the MEO particularly noted that a number of expressions contested by the Art Gallery Director are not facts but value judgments. Hence, their validity is unprovable. MEO concluded that the conflict between Paravon Mirzoyan and the daily is a matter of journalistic ethics and may be settled through publication in “Chorrord Inknishkhanutiun” of the refutation or reply text provided by Paravon Mirzoyan, or publication of the MEO judgment in the daily (in Armenian).
2. Judgment of Media Ethics Observatory of December 25, 2011 on the complaint of Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, on a number of media pieces (in Armenian, in English).
3. Activist of the civil movement “We Are against the Reopening of Foreign Language Schools” Armen Hovhannisian addressed MEO with a complaint against Petros Ghazarian, author and host of “Urvagits” program of Kentron” TV company. In his letter, Armen Hovhannisian stated that at the discussion of the issue on foreign language schools’ reopening, Petros Ghazarian invited to “Urvagits” only people supporting the initiative, while the representatives of the civil movement have never participated in it. Armen Hovhannisian accused Petros Ghazarian in a one-sided coverage of the issue and in bias. MEO addressed Petros Ghazarian, offering its mediation in the conflict (“Kentron” TV company is not a member of the media self-regulation initiative). The journalist accepted the offer. MEO considered the complaint and rendered a decision on June 1, 2011, noting that Petros Ghazarian had not violated the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives. MEO took into account the fact that the “Urvagits” programs involved guests from both camps: pro e contra the foreign language schools in Armenia. MEO also stressed that a journalist has the right to voice his/her own stance on an issue and this does not contradict the journalistic ethics.
In 2010 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. The judgment of Media Ethics Observatory of February 4, 2010 regarding the request of Eduard Naghdalian, Chief Editor of “Delovoy Express” business weekly. Eduard Naghdalian addressed MEO for an expert judgment on the complaint of Mr. Vardanian, Director of “D.E.L.V” LLC, dealing with a piece, published in the weekly (in Armenian, in English).
2. On April 14, 2010 Susanna Shakhnazarian, President of Goris Press Club, Syuniq region, addressed the Media Ethics Observatory requesting to render an expert judgment on the conformity of the conduct of the local newspaper “Gortsarar Hayeli” employees to the professional ethics. In her letter the Head of Goris Press Club, particularly, noted that she permanently received calls, informing that the representatives of “Gortsarar Hayeli” visit the organizations of Goris and propose to write articles about them and make interviews for a certain compensation. MEO sent a letter to the Chief Editor of the newspaper Marineh Hakobian, offering its mediation in the conflict (“Gortsarar Hayeli” is not a member of the media self-regulation initiative). The newspaper did not respond to the offer.
3. Gayaneh Hovsepian, free lance journalist from Vanadzor, Lori region, submitted a complaint to the Media Ethics Observatory on the national daily “Hraparak” regarding the violation of her copyrights. MEO addressed a letter to the daily offering its mediation in the conflict (“Hraparak” is not a member of the media self-regulation initiative). The daily did not respond to the offer.
4. On June 8, 2010 the “Ecological Security and Democracy Development” NGO of Kapan, Syuniq region, addressed the Media Ethics Observatory requesting to render an expert judgment on the conformity of the conduct of the local “Khustup TV “ company to the professional ethics. In his letter Rafael Asrian, the Head of the NGO, noted that in 2005 “Khustup TV” and “Dino Gold Mining” CJSC concluded a memorandum on cooperation, according to which the TV channel was to cover the activities of the gold mining company. The dissatisfaction of Rafael Asrian was stipulated by the nature of this coverage - one-sided and purely positive. MEO addressed a letter to the TV company, offering its mediation in the conflict (“Khustup TV” is not a member of the media self-regulation initiative). In its response of September 11, 2010 the TV company accepted the offer and invited the MEO members to Kapan to meet all the conflict parties for a more thorough examination. MEO informed the “Ecological Security and Democracy Development” NGO about its intention to visit Kapan. Nevertheless, in the letter of September 28, 2010 the NGO notified that refuses the mediation of MEO and is going to take judicial measures versus “Khustup TV”.
5. On June 18, 2010 citizens Aghasi and Vardan Hambardzumian submitted a complaint to Media Ethics Observatory on “Aravot” daily, which had published a piece “A Story of One Heritage” on June 17, 2010. The complaint, particularly, noted that the abovementioned piece contained some untrue information. Considering the complaint on July 21, 2010, MEO resolved that “Aravot” had not violated the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives, as the contested article was a refutation by the Head of the Notarial Chamber Alvard Petrosian on the article “Were Deprived of Heritage on the Fault of the Notary?”, published in “Aravot” on May 27, 2010. In its decision MEO referred to Article 8 of RA Law “On Mass Communication” which ensures the right of refutation and reply.
6. On August 27, 2010 Aziz Tamoyan, President of Ezidi’s National Union of Armenia, addressed the Media Ethics Observatory with a complaint on “Hraparak” daily, which had published a piece “The Secret Mania of Tamoyan or a Rape Attempt as Rib” on August 21, 2010. In the complaint the President of Ezidi’s National Union noted that the contested article contained untrue information. MEO addressed a letter to the daily offering its mediation in the conflict (“Hraparak” is not a member of the media self-regulation initiative). The newspaper did not respond to the offer.
7. The Media Ethics Observatory judgment of September 11, 2010 on the complaint of the Head of “Cooperation for Democracy” Center Stepan Danielian versus “Aravot” daily. The subject of the complaint became the article “My Daughter Swore to Wash Up with My Blood”, published in “Aravot” on July 7, 2010 (in Armenian).
8. Citizen Anmar Gasparian had addressed the Media Ethics Observatory with a complaint versus “Aravot” daily, which had published the pieces “The Deadman Consented?” on August 4, 2010, “The Policemen Threaten the Babayans” on September 16, 2010, and versus “Ankakh” weekly, which had written an article on the same topic. Anmar Gasparian specifically noted that the contested pieces contained untrue information. On December 22, 2010 MEO sent a letter to Anmar Gasparian, advising her to address directly to the newspapers and require to publish a refutation. The letter also stressed that MEO is ready to be a mediator in the case, and therefore needs additional information and explanations given by Anmar Gasparian. The later did not respond to the suggestion.
In 2009 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. On January 9, 2009 the MEO considered the complaint of two members of the RA State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition regarding the article “We are Becoming Like European Countries”, published in “Aravot” daily on December 11, 2008. The article was dealing with one of the sessions of the Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition. In the opinion of the complaining party, the article contained factual mistakes, and the professionalism of the Commission members was unreasonably questioned. The MEO acted as an intermediary in resolving the dispute, offering “Aravot” to publish a response. The response of the Commission members was published in “Aravot” on January 14, 2009.
2. The MEO judgment of May 12, 2009 regarding the complaint of “Heritage” party versus “168 Zham” newspaper. The complaint of “Heritage” party referred to the pieces, published by “168 Zham”, “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Zhamanak”, “Hraparak” newspapers. According to the applicant, the pieces contained false information, misinformation or offensive expressions for the party. To “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Zhamanak”, “Hraparak”, who are not members of the self-regulation initiative, the MEO addressed letters, offering its mediation in the conflict. Since the aforesaid newspapers did not respond to the proposal, the appeal of “Heritage” party was considered only partially - regarding two articles of “168 Zham” newspaper, which has signed the Code of Conduct (in Armenian, in English).
3. The MEO judgment of May 12, 2009 regarding the complaint of Chief Editor of “168 Zham” newspaper Satik Seyranian and Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily Aram Abrahamian versus “Azg” daily (in Armenian, in English).
4. Regarding the complaint on copyrights violation of Anush Martirosian, ex-correspondent of “Hraparak” daily, versus the same newspaper the MEO addressed a letter to the newspaper, offering its mediation in the conflict (“Hraparak” has not signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives). In its response “Hraparak” refused the offer of the MEO.
5. The MEO decision on the complaint of Hakob Avetikian, Chief Editor of “Azg” daily, versus “168 Zham” newspaper regarding the article “Who’s Standing behind the Party Ramkavar Azatakan-2?”, published on June 25, 2009 . In the opinion of “Azg”, the interview contained untrue information. The MEO resolved to arrange the meeting of the two media heads - Hakob Avetikian, “Azg” Chief Editor, and Satik Seyranian, Chief Editor of “168 Zham”.
In 2008 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. On January 11, 2008 in “Aravot” daily an article “Has the ‘Alliance’ of the Gafesjians and the Sargsians Failed?” was published. The article told about the controversy between the co-owners of “Armenia” TV company, the Sargsian family, and the American multi-millionaire of Armenian descent Gerard Gafesjian, about the rumors of a sale of share of the TV company, the alleged problems of salary allocations and payments, as well as projects implemented. On January 12 on the air of “Armenia” the co-owner of the TV company Bagrat Sargsian refuted the information, published by “Aravot”, announcing he would sue the daily. On January 15 the MEO urged “Armenia” TV and “Aravot” to solve the conflict out of court. Expressing its concern with the incident between the two media and noting that taking the problem to court might seriously harm the reputation of the media, the MEO appealed on “Armenia” TV to solve the issue through negotiations and on “Aravot” daily - to be ready to engage in them. As a result, a written agreement was reached between “Aravot” and “Armenia” on publishing a refutation. It was published in “Aravot” issue of January 19, headlined “In reality ‘Armenia’ Flourishes”. The piece stated that the information about “Armenia” TV company, presented in the daily on January 11, was untrue.
2. On February 4, 2008 Karineh Danielian, Executive Director of “GALA” TV company of Gyumri, addressed the MEO with a complaint versus “Tsayg” TV company of Gyumri. On January 31, 2008 the latter had referred to “GALA” TV company in a negative context in its newscast “Azdarar”. The complaint was considered at the MEO sessions of February 15 and April 3, 2008. The MEO resolved to refrain from rendering a decision, as the complaint of “GALA” TV company was not subject to regulation by the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives. The MEO addressed a circular letter to all the media, who had signed the Code of Conduct. The letter did not contain a requirement of its publishing.
3. The MEO expert judgment of October 31, 2008. Ruzan Minasian, correspondent of “Aravot” daily, applied to MEO to receive an expert judgment on the article which became subject of the court suit of Arthur Ghevondian, RA police officer, versus ”Aravot” daily. The plaintiff demanded to induce the newspaper to publish a refutation of the information in the article “If Your Neighbor is a Policeman” ("Aravot", June 25, 2008) by Ruzan Minasian, which discredited his honor and reputation. Ruzan Minasian presented the MEO expert judgment at the court session of November 14 (in Armenian, in English). Artur Ghevondian announced that if “Aravot” published the assessment, he would revoke the suit. On November 15, the daily published the text of the judgment. On November 18 the court secured the petition of Artur Ghevondian about revoking the suit. On November 26 the decision of Civil Court of Yerevan was announced to revoke the suit of Arthur Ghevondian versus “Aravot” daily and to terminate the court proceedings. Thus, a precedent had appeared in Armenia. For the first time, upon the request of a party, the self-regulation body made an assessment on the litigation subject, and the opponent party, being satisfied with the content and publicizing of the document, revoked the suit.
4. The MEO decision of October 31, 2008 on the complaint of Sara Petrosian, member of the Board of “Investigative Journalists” NGO, versus “Pakagits” newspaper, regarding the copyrights violation of the journalist. The MEO resolved to not consider the complaint, as “Pakagits” newspaper had not signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives. At the same time, on November 27, 2008 the MEO addressed a letter to the newspaper, offering its mediation in the case. On December 4, 2008 “Pakagits” published the relevant correction.
5. A similar to the above mentioned complaint regarding the copyrights violation of “A1+” website was brought by Mesrop Movsesian, President of “Meltex” LLC, founder of “A1+” TV company, versus “Zhamanaki Mitq” newspaper. The MEO resolved to not consider the complaint, as “Zhamanaki Mitq” had not signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives. The MEO addressed a letter to Simon Sargsian, Chief Editor of the newspaper, offering its mediation in the case. The dispute between “Zhamanaki Mitq” and “A1+” was settled. Besides, the Chief Editor of the newspaper announced that “Zhamanaki Mitq” joins the self-regulation initiative and is ready to sign the Code of Conduct.
In 2007 the Media Ethics Observatory has rendered the following judgments/decisions:
1. The MEO judgment of July 4, 2007 on the complaint of citizen Samvel Martirosian versus the Second Armenian TV Channel (in Armenian).
2. The MEO decision of July 4 and July 25, 2007 on the complaints of United Liberal Democratic National Party versus Lragir.am online publication, and ARF “Dashnaktsutiun” versus “Azg” daily. In both cases the MEO resolved that there had been no violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles.
3. MEO judgment of September 12, 2007 regarding the Armenian media coverage of parliamentary elections of May 12, 2007 (in Armenian, in English).
4. MEO judgment of September 12, 2007 regarding the complaint of “Cooperation for Democracy” Center versus “Azg” daily (in Armenian, in English).
5. The MEO decision of November 7, 2007 on the complaint of ethnographer Hranush Kharatian versus a number of newspapers, including “Aravot” daily. The MEO stressed that is entitled to consider only the claims versus “Aravot”, as the other publications mentioned in the complaint have not signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives. Referring to “Aravot”, the MEO resolved to terminate the consideration of the complaint, as the pieces, that had became subject for the complaint, were published before the daily had signed the Code of Conduct.
6. The MEO decision of December 17, 2007 on the complaint of citizen Knarik Mehrabian versus the piece “One Should Not Ask for Money From the Deceased”, published by “Aravot” daily on October 11, 2007. By listening to the explanations of the Aram Abrahamian, Chief Editor of “Aravot”, and Ruzan Minasian, author of the article and correspondent of the daily, the MEO resolved to refrain from rendering a judgment. At the same time, a letter, analyzing the conformity of the piece with the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives, was sent to “Aravot” Chief Editor. The MEO also emphasized that its decision is stipulated by the fact that the complaint contained insults to the article author, as well as by the incident that occurred at the editorial office on the day of the issue of the piece, on October 11.