Second President of Armenia Robert Kocharian Sues Hraparak Daily

Second president of the Republic of Armenia Robert Kocharian is suing local daily Hraparak. He is asking the paper to retract information harming his honor and dignity in an article published on Feb. 12, as well as demanding 6 million drams (about $16,200 US) in damages. 

The plaintiff’s demand that Hraparak’s bank account and assets be frozen was granted in a Yerevan court. The daily is currently published with funds transferred to a private printing office prior to the freezing of its accounts.


Hraparak editor Armine Ohanyan finds that such moves are an attempt at restricting press freedom. 


“With cunning, conspiratorial, treacherous, legislative steps, they’re trying to throw back our freedoms. They want to turn the press as well into the not-free press of the Soviet years, as their television is,” she said.


The editor notes that the article in question was a personal opinion. The author, Lusine Petrosyan, analyzed then expressed her opinion of Kocharian the person, Kocharian the president and the statements he made, which are the author’s subjective opinions. 


“If Lusine Petrosyan considers Robert Kocharian a provincial person, that’s her opinion, not a fact which is subject to retraction,” said Ohanyan. 


She describes how after the article was published, the legal firm Grigoryan & Partners representing Kocharian sent a letter to Hraparak, asking the newspaper to retract the article. The paper expressed willingness to publish the retraction sent by them if it notes which aspect of the article is inaccurate, libelous and defamatory.

“Then they sent a letter where it was written ‘Retraction’ and four lines; besides, the retraction was sent not in their name, but on behalf of Hraparak daily. We wrote an article in response: who authorized you to make a statement on behalf of Hraparak daily? This is not retraction copy; retraction copy would be if you analyzed the article and wrote your take on it, to which we will write retraction copy,” said the Hraparak editor.  

The lawsuit sent from the court followed the paper’s response.


Stepanakert Press Club President Gegham Baghdasaryan finds that lawsuits against the press are a modern take on censorship.


“In current unequal conditions, any move that restricts the activities of news outlets deserves public reproach, since the would-be damage to news outlets is incomparable with the tremendous damage that those who restrict media activity caused and cause the public,” he said. 


Baghdasaryan advised journalists and news outlets to think about professional ethics.


“We have to have professional and responsible journalists and news outlets. In equal conditions, there won’t be that ‘credit’ of public sympathy toward news outlets that exists today. That time there will be the most genuine claims, which is a good phenomenon and for which we must be ready,” he said. 


Armine Ohanyan finds it difficult to pin hopes on Armenia’s judicial system.


“If the judge sustains 6 million, it’ll be a catastrophe; even if half of this is sustained, we’ll already face very serious financial difficulties,” she said. 


While there’s already a precedent in sustaining Kocharian’s lawsuit: in 2009, Robert Kocharian’s son Levon Kocharian sued another local daily Haykakan Jamanak (“Armenian Times”), which had written that Kocharian’s youngest son, in an intoxicated state, had been arrested by Dubai police for public disorder. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and mandated the paper to publish a retraction and pay 3.6 million drams (about $9,730 US) in damages.


Yet another libel suit by the Kocharians: Robert Kocharian’s wife and son, Bella and Sedrak Kocharian respectively, sued local daily Jamanak for three articles published in September and early October of last year in which it claimed that Bella Kocharian is involved in the pharmaceuticals business, the 911 drugstores chain belongs to the Kocharian family and they’re the ones who sponsor Comstar, Likvor and Pharmatex in the pharmaceuticals drug markets. The paper also alleged that the Kocharian family owns diamond mines in Namibia and that recently, Sedrak Kocharian acquired a diamond mine in India.

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