Earlier, the news website Ilur.am and Hraparak Daily reported that Vardan Nadarian, the then Police Head of Shirak province, attacked two young men in a dispute outside the regional capital Gyumri. One of them turned out to be Artur Aleksanian, a prominent Armenian wrestler and three-time European champion.
Citing those reports, the Special Investigative Service launched a criminal investigation into the alleged violence. The law-enforcement agency ruled the media must disclose the sources of the information, saying that is necessary for solving the case. Both publications defied and presently, charges are brought against Kristine Khanumyan, ilur.am editor.
International law expert Ara Ghazaryan told the journalists that he has already filed a motion to the Constitutional Court to appeal the constitutionality of the norms of the criminal trial.
“Now the case is investigated by the Constitutional Court. The authorities force media to disclose their sources of information which I would call an absurd interference. We all know how important the protection of source is for the freedom of media and from a perspective of the right to information. Sources must be sure that they won’t be disclosed,” Ghazaryan said.
The next hearing on the case at the Constitutional Court is scheduled for October 20, Ghazaryan added. “The criminal case against Khanumyan must be suspended pending a verdict on the appeal.”
The case may grow into a dangerous and serious precedent, believes Ashot Melikyan, Head of the Committee to Protect the Freedom of Speech.
“The current Law on Mass media clearly specifies how a source should be disclosed. It is disclosed if the case involves serious and especially serious crimes but this incident happened in Gyumri and the whole town was talking about it. The public interest is not to disclose the source. Without secret sources journalism becomes impossible, especially investigative journalism,” Melikyan said.
The case is a major challenge the media community has to address, Melikyan believes.
Suren Deheryan, Head of the Journalists for Future NGO, said “as our sources state” is a frequent phrase in the Armenian media. “What is the problem here? The source or the incident as such, with the people involved in it? Actually, the news website has become the target whilst the real participants of the incident are not discussed,” Deheryan said.
Deheryan advised media not to rely on one source only and request information from several sources and cite them in the media outlet.
If media becomes unreliable - Ashot Melikyan believes- secret sources will stop providing them with timely information on the issues of public importance.
“After this case media may think twice before working with such secret sources,” Deheryan said.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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