The Principal of Yerevan’s Public School 11 (named in honor of Monte Melkonian) has sued the news outlet “7or.am” for slander after it published an article alleging that she had demanded that teachers pay her $100 each.
Principal Rouzanna Azizyan is also famous for being a classmate of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
“7or” (7 days) published the article “Serzh Sargsyan’s classmate demands $100 for teachers?” on April 16 of this year after receiving tip-offs from parents.
On April 17, the news site received a letter from Azizyan’s attorney that those who sent in the allegations weren’t irate parents but rather some teachers who had been dismissed from the school and were bent on discrediting the principal and the staff.
Attorney Tovmasyan also informed the site that Yerevan’s Malatya-Sebastia Court had accepted the school’s slander suit against these teachers and had found in favour of the plaintiff, obligating the teachers to publish retractions in a number of new sites.
“7or” then published an abridged version of the attorney’s clarifications under the title “Retraction”. The heading read – “Those who telephoned weren’t irate parents but 2-2 dismissed teachers”.
This step did not appease Rouzanna Azizyan and she filed a slander suit at the Shengavit Court against the news site, demanding a retraction and apology.
“7or” Director Andranik Tevanyan told Hetq said they proceeded according to the law and published the attorney’s clarifications. Tevanyan said that the abridged version was also legal since the law requires that any retraction must not be longer than the original piece.
Arshak Tovmasyan, attorney for the school, told Hetq that, “We told them to issue a retraction before we took them to court, but they printed a chopped-up version of what we sent and called it a retraction. I never sent them a retraction but a letter of clarification.”
If the news site cannot prove that the information in their article is true, then Principal Azizyan will demand an apology and 100,000 for incurred legal fees.
Tevanyan says “7or” received the letter from parents via email. It wasn’t signed, he confesses, but notes that allegations of bribery in schools usually turn out to be true.
Tevanyan also argued that the Minister of Education and Science has even stated that he regards such publications as credible tip-offs to bribery and that’s why “7or” went ahead and printed the allegations.
“We didn’t claim that the allegations were true, we just published them,” says Tevanyan.
After the contentious article was published, parents of pupils at the Monte Melkonian School visited the “7or” office to complain as to why the news site ran such a piece.
Tevanyan suggested that the parents put their complaint in writing, but the parents never did.
The court postponed the first trial session so that the sides could sit down and reach a settlement. They failed to do so.
At the last trial session, attorney Arshak Tovmasyan told the court that he would be presenting a new demand on behalf of his clients, the school and its principal.
The session was postponed. “7or” has yet to receive any such new demand in writing.
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