Investigator has No Right to Ask Journalist to Reveal Her Source

Mesrop Harutyunyan

Writer by calling

According to Aravot online editor Anna Israelyan, the editors have received a writ [AM] “to present [ourselves] to RA Ministry of Defense Investigation Service […] investigator L.A. Petrosyan to give a testimony regarding criminal case number 32102413. From conversations held earlier, it became clear that the subject of the interrogation is going to be [Aravot‘s] June 4 article ‘Was Surik Khachatryan’s Arrested Son Under the Influence of Drugs When He [Fired the] Shot?’. The investigator is interested in knowing how secret investigation information was published.”

That is to say, the investigator essentially wants to oblige the reporter and the news outlet to reveal the source of their information. But, according to both internationally adopted principles and the RA Law on the Dissemination of Mass Information, the INVESTIGATOR HAS NO RIGHT TO MAKE SUCH A DEMAND. For the knowledge of the investigator and other such investigators suffering from Soviet nostalgia to suppress news outlets, I quote the following article from the RA Law on the Dissemination of Mass Information:


1. The persons implementing media activity and the journalists shall not be obliged to disclose their sources of information, with the exception of the cases set forth in the 2nd part of this Article.

2. The implementer of media activity or a journalist can be obliged to disclose the source of information by the court decision, in the course of a criminal proceeding with the aim of revealing heavy or most heavy crimes, if societal interest in law enforcement overweighs the societal interest in protecting the sources of information, and all other means to protect public interest are exhausted. In such cases, at the petition of the journalist, the court proceedings can be held in camera.

Everything is clear and simple. Only the court, Mr. Investigator, do you understand, can ask for a source to be revealed. And not just like that either; one has to prove to the court first that the aim is to revel a “heavy or most heavy crime,” and second, that “societal interest in law enforcement overweighs the societal interest in protecting the sources of information, and all other means to protect public interest are exhausted.”

If the investigator, without a court ruling, demands this, then that is an UNLAWFUL request. And an UNLAWFUL activity is a violation…

By the way, if the investigator doesn’t know this basic thing, at least he should’ve known the Mar. 17, 2010 addendum to Article 16 of the RA Criminal Code [AM]: “If a court ruling obliges a journalist or one carrying out journalist activities to reveal the source of his information, then based on a motion by the journalist or the person carrying out journalist activities, the court examination is held in camera.”

That is, the Criminal Procedure Code also stipulates that revealing a source can be demanded only by the court. Otherwise, this addendum wouldn’t have been made. 

As for the investigator’s other insistence, that an investigation secret was published, well here too everything is clear: first, the news outlet was not obliged to know that the information it received was secret (actually, it’s clear from Aravot‘s report that it’s not an investigation secret at all, since attorney Ruben Sahakyan says that the results of the inspection are not yet clear). Second, when any confidential information is published, the responsibility lies with the bearer of the information and not the news outlet…

And in this entire story, the most distressing thing is that supervising the investigation is RA Military Prosecutor Gevorg Kostanyan, who is also the Armenian government’s representative to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and recently was appointed a member of the expert committee of constitutional reforms, an adjunct to the Office of the President of the Republic of Armenia.

Doesn’t someone who has represented Armenia’s interests for several years at the ECHR know these basic provisions on the right of journalists not to reveal their source? If so, then why doesn’t he do something to stop the investigator’s unlawful request? Doesn’t Kostanyan, who is very well aware of European rights, know that even if their desired decision is reached by all three levels of Armenia’s court system, they will surely lose in the European Court of Human Rights?

Mesrop Harutyunyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

Add new comment

Comments by Media.am readers become public after moderation. We urge our readers not to leave anonymous comments. It’s always nice to know with whom one is speaking.

We do not publish comments that contain profanities, non-normative lexicon, personal attacks or threats. We do not publish comments that spread hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *