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Armenian Blogger on Trial for Satire Photo of Politician

The first hearing in a defamation lawsuit against blogger, Edgar Barseghyan, was held in Armenia on December 24, 2012.

Barseghyan, the creator of satire photo website, Demotivator.am is on trial for publishing a photo of a model's body with the superimposed face of Tigran Urikhanyan, an MP and spokesperson for Prosperous Armenia Party, with the caption “Stylish Politician of the Year”.

Demotivator - Stylish Politician of the Year

Demotivator – Tigran Urikhanyan as ‘Stylish Politician of the Year’

Urikhanian considered the image offensive and sued Barseghyan for “damaging the honor, dignity and business reputation of the plaintiff with the photo.”

According to a Facebook post by Barseghyan, the politician demands for Demotivator to be removed from the web, a public apology, and legal fees and damages of 1,000,000 AMD (about $2,500 USD).

Edgar Barsegyan

Edgar Barsegyan (used with permission)

According to blogger Edgar Barseghyan (also known under the Livejournal username “alkhimik” ), the Demotivator photo was created in response to the news that Tigran Urikhanian was recognized by an Armenian-Italian holding “Amore” as the most stylish Armenian political figure of the year.

Edgar Barseghyan wrote in his Livejournal blog:

“Կարդալով նյութը էլ ավելի զարմացա, որ լինելով քաղաքական գործիչ, պարոն Ուրիխանյանը ոչ միայն համաձայնվել է այդ կոչումը իրեն շնորհելու հետ, այլ նաև հպարտորեն կիսվել է այդ լուրով իր ֆեյսբուքյան էջում։…  Այո, ես կարծում եմ, որ լուրջ տղամարդու համար, որի մասնագիտական գործունեությունը կապված չէ իր մարմնական, ֆիզիկական տեսքի հետ (օրինակ՝ մոդելի, դերասանի) ընդհանրապես սազական չէ ի ցույց աշխարհի դնել սեփական «նվաճումները» այդ ոլորտում:”

“After reading the news, I was surprised that the politician not only agreed with this award but moreover proudly shared the news on his Facebook page… Yes, I believe that serious man shouldn't be proud of “achievements” in such a field, as long as his professional activity is not related to his physical appearance (such as models or actors).”

Flashmob Emoticon

Flashmob emoticon to protest threats against free speech

The trial in court later evolved into a battle on the Internet. Online activists, bloggers, and representatives of mass media showed their support for the blogger by changing their Facebook profile pictures to an icon (an emoticon), symbolizing the lack of freedom of speech.

Also to protest against the lawsuit, Facebook users organized a virtual flashmob “I am suing Edgar Barseghyan for …”, coming up with all sorts of absurd reasons for which a blogger “can be sued”.

Meanwhile, Edgar Barseghyan also received negative comments and threats from supporters of Tigran Urikhanyan.

RadioVan blog

“Этот случай уникальный. Здесь судят блоггера за демотиватор. У суда ноль практики …. “

“It is a unique case. Blogger sued for Demotivator. The court has zero experience in such cases …”

Mark Grigoryan

“Не знаю, кто посоветовал ему обратиться в суд, но совет этот был, как мне кажется, плохим. Причем не важно: дойдет ли дело до суда, и если да, то как закончится суд. Политик уже проиграл”.

“I don’t know who advised him to go to court, but, I think, it was the wrong advice. Whether the case goes to trial, and if so, how it will end up – it doesn’t matter. The politician has already lost”.

Hasmik Hambartsumyan

“Բլոգերների համար վատ նախադեպ ա առաջանում…”

“It sets a bad precedent for bloggers”.

Tehmina Harutyunyan

“Մեկ միլիոն դրամով դատել բլոգերին, նշանակում է բլոգային գրառումների 90 տոկոսը դնել վտանգի տակ”.

“To fine a blogger for 1 million means that 90% of blog posts will be under threat”

Marine Shahbazyan

«Շատ էլ ճիշտ ա արել, դատի ա տվել.. մի հատ էս նկարին յաեք էլի.. դուք լինեիք, դատի չէիք տա, տղաներ? սա ինչ ա նշանակում, վիրավորանք ուրիշ ոչ մի բան… ասլեիքը կարելի էր ավելի խոր ու հետքրքիր ձևով ասել, ոչ թե վիրավորելով.. 1 միլիոնը քիչ ա, 2 միլիոն պետք ա պահանջեր Ուրիխանյանը».

“It is very good that he was sent to court. Look at the picture, guys, would you not sue if this happened to you? What is it? Insulting and nothing more. It is possible to express the same message in another, more interesting manner, without resorting to insults. I think Urikhanian should demand even 2 million.”

Susanna Tumasyan

“ Էդգար Բարսեղյան,եթե քեզ թույլատրված է գրիչ վերցնել,դա դեռ չի նշանակում,որ դու այնքան իրավունք ունես քեզ թույլ տալ աջ ու ձախ շռայլել անմիտ ձեռագիրտ”:

“Edgar Barseghyan, just because you are permitted to write, it does not mean that you have the right to spread your foolish writing everywhere”.

According to a Facebook post by Tigran Urikhanian, the case has a political context. He considers the Demotivator image as a response to his “bold statements about the problems in the country and the need for system changes.”

Tigran Urikhanyan. Profile photo from Facebook.

Tigran Urikhanyan. Profile photo from Facebook.

In an interview on Aysor.am he said that the law on his side, and if the court will not follow the law, “the judge will be subjected to public opinion and evaluation of his work, after which it will be difficult for this judge to work in Armenia.”

This statement was interpreted by many bloggers as indirect threat to the judge.

A second court hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2013, however it was postponed to March 5 because of Urikhanyan's absence from Armenia.

  • Karim Daniela

    Oh. Interesting article. Could you please indicate the Armenian blogger’s name on facebook. I would like to have a look and see if I want to become his friend on Facebook. My pseudonym on youtube is karimanddaniela and on facebook it is karim daniela. I saw on the French news today that he is being charged a million US dollars and all people on his facebook page will be prosecuted by Armenia. Kind regards my real name is Karin Muller. :-)

  • soumeya primrose

    hhhhhh good good i like it ;) good idea

  • http://www.facebook.com/tigrito.way Тигран Вартанов

    thank you for the article.
    and if you are in Armenia you can book cars for rent here http://naniko.am

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