Disclosure of Suicide Details Can Cause Irreversible Damage*

Gayane Asryan


The coverage of one couple’s suicide in the region of Tavush a few days ago was not only within the limits of official messages 

Shamshyan.com, which was the first to write about the incident, did not say where the incident took place, but published details that “the individuals who committed suicide are spouses. The husband worked as a compulsory bailiff in the Tavush Region Judicial Acts Enforcement Service. And the reason for the woman’s suicide was allegedly some phone SMSs.”  

In order to provide details on the incident, aravot.am had used an anonymous source, and published, in fact, the kind of data, which can be used to identify the individuals who had committed suicide, and relatives. 

“A few days before the suicide, the young woman came to Ijevan, to her aunt’s house, and a day later moved to her grandmother’s house in one of the villages of the Tavush region. The woman was kicked out of the house by her husband, so to speak, and was no longer permitted to come back. She was not even allowed to see the children,” Aravot’s website writes. 

The continuation of the description of the details of this tragic event is as follows. “The couple who had committed suicide have two young children. They had been experiencing family problems lately. According to preliminary information, on the grounds of adultery. The betrayal was reportedly committed by the woman and neither her husband nor her parents forgave her.” 

This publication was read with sorrow by Arman Gharibyan, co-founder of the “Law Force” NGO. He says that this is not the first and only case when after the incident the media targets the woman who committed suicide, publishing information from anonymous sources, which is practically impossible to verify. 

“The media cannot act like this, because the accused party, in this case, the woman who committed suicide, is deprived of the opportunity to respond. In some cases, women take this step as a result of violence. Ultimately, they do not have a dignified death, so at least after the death their relatives and children should not be harmed,” said Gharibyan. 

According to him, taking into account the small size of the communities, it is especially important not to target underage children, because they will continue to live in the same community and go to school and there is no need to create additional opportunities to ridicule and bully them. 

In these cases, according to Gharibyan, it is important to understand the so-called public interest, and even in that case, it is very important to take into account the privacy of personal life and the protection of the best interests of children․ “There is no public interest in this particular material, there is public curiosity and it is unequivocal that these materials are written and disseminated in order to have a large number of readings. There is no dilemma here, as to whether it is worth publishing such details or not.” 

Aravot journalist, and author of the article, Arpine Simonyan, does not see any problems with this publication by and large. “The article had 12 thousand views in one day, which proves that this topic has great resonance. Painful family stories arouse public interest. After the incident, I saw discussions on social networks, and new details became known to me, which I wrote anonymously. I did not mention anyone’s name in the article.” 

Referring to the opinion that the information included in the article is enough to identify those who committed suicide and their children, Arpine Simonyan said, “The Investigative Committee has published the name of the village and since the village is small, it is clear that everyone both from that village and villages surrounding it knows about the incident.” 

“I do not think that we are causing any harm to the children with this publication, they will know about the incident one way or another, because everyone in their place of residence knows. For the readers of Yerevan, we have presented the details without names,” said the journalist. 

The journalist considers the emphasis on the topic of the woman’s adultery in the article and its use in the headline not as discrimination, but as a way to show the motive for suicide. 

“Aravot” is one of the few media outlets in Armenia that has its own code of ethics, which employees have joined, voluntarily committing themselves to refrain from insults, qualifications, and labeling in their comments. 

According to this internal regulation, “Aravot” journalists do not publish information about people’s private lives unless it is related to the income of officials and corruption. 

Aravot also signed the regulations of the Media Monitoring Body. One of the clauses states that the media outlet is obliged to protect the right to privacy of individuals, including respect for private and family life, housing, property, health, and correspondence. 

Article 4․3 of the chapter “Respect for people’s privacy and other rights” also states that journalists should be especially careful when the sources of information or the protagonists are children or minors. 

Human rights activist Nina Karapetyants says that the topic of suicide requires a very delicate approach from journalists and the media. 

“In any case, a person should be insured against self-disclosure, which is very difficult taking into account the small size of the country and our temperament.” 

She admits that the media wants to have readable material, which is not limited by law. But self-regulation is for the media to draw boundaries for itself․ “If it decides to become a yellow press, it must honestly tell its audience about it.” 

According to Karapetyants, we have had a situation for years when photojournalist Gagik Shamshyan has had sole access to information, probably as a result of some agreements, where there are obvious corruption risks. 

“He appears at the scene when sometimes the investigative actions are still in progress and what he publishes is not always true. Personal data is published, the presumption of innocence is violated, and public impressions are formed. But shouldn’t any journalist and editor close to journalism also take responsibility for the published material?” 

According to her, sometimes the court finds a person innocent, but they are already qualified as guilty thanks to those publications․ “There is another problem, the court is constrained to make fair decisions due to public opinion. And it’s this kind of quality journalism that contributes to that.” 

According to Karapetyants, today the media tries to publish such materials that “win people’s hearts,” and as a result children, women, parents, and vulnerable groups suffer. 

“Of course, this is not one-sided and it is not only the fault of the media; society is sick. It does not differentiate between what is a priority and what is secondary or differentiate between the cause and the consequence and so on. Once again, we come back to the field of education. It is still important to work with children from school, to explain, talk and break all stereotypes,” she said. 

On Media.am you can read the article “Werther’s Effect” by Nvard Manasyan, according to which science has long established a causal link between the increase in the number of suicides and their coverage. 

You can also read about suicide coverage tips translated from Poynter.org. 

Gayane Asryan 

* After the publication of this article, aravot.am changed the title of the article, making it “Details on the case of the couple’s suicide in Tavush” and edited some parts of the text. It also removed the link to the article from its Facebook page. 


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