Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ex-President's Family Sues Newspaper For Libel

Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian with his wife and children.
Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharian and his family have filed a libel suit against a pro-opposition newspaper "Zhamanak" over series of reports published in September, claiming ex-president's involvement in imports of pharmaceuticals and ownership of a chain of drug stores. Citing an unnamed source, "Zhamanak" daily also alleged that Kocharian’s older son Sedrak has purchased a diamond mine in India.

Kocharian and his family members have dismissed the reports and sued the paper demanding 6 million drams ($16,700) in compensatory damages.

The legal action came despite the paper’s decision to publish retractions, sent by the Kocharian family in October, along with its “explanatory” comments attached to them. “Zhamanak” editor Arman Babajanian told  RFE/RL's Armenian service, that the family was angered by the background notes.

“According to the Kocharians’ lawyer, we insulted the family for a second time by reminding our readers what the issue is all about,” Babajanian said, adding that his newspaper is determined to fight back in court.

Last year Kocharian family won in a similar case against a pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The newspaper was made to pay 3.6 million drams in compensations for alleging that Kocharian’s younger son, Levon, provoked a drunken brawl in the United Arab Emirates. The paper, which boasts the highest daily circulation in Armenia, called the verdict “unfounded and illegal.”

Both “Zhamanak” and “Haykakan Zhamanak” are highly pro-opposition dailies, supportive of Armenia's First President Levon Ter-Petrosian, Kocharian’s predecessor and most bitter foe.

Admittedly, both newspapers, as most other media in Armenia, are quick to publish stories based on "unnamed sources," which often turn out to be simple games of imagination.

Kocharian, on the other hand, is the President who shut down "A1plus" independent TV and seriously degraded the situation with freedom of speech in this country.

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