16:57 / 12.12.2022

Anorbank harshly criticized for demanding compensation of 15 billion soums from mass media 

In international experience, large organizations, if they have a lawsuit against the media, demand a symbolic 1 dollar compensation and a disclaimer in the publication itself. In Uzbekistan, Anorbank wants to collect exactly 15 billion soums from the e-publication. A number of activists denounced the bank’s request for such a sum and expressed concern that it would set a precedent for the bankruptcy of the media.

Anorbank (private bank) is suing Sof.uz for the video material published by the publication, asking for 10 billion soums in material and 5 billion soums in moral damages. This situation between the publication and the bank was negatively received by public activists. 

The chairman of Creative Union of Journalists, Olimjon Usarov, wrote that the organization, which considered itself to be right, instead of finding a solution to the problems, sued the whistleblower.

“When any mass media investigates a problem and conducts a journalistic inquiry, its goal is to convey unbiased information to the public free from personal interests.

Unfortunately, not all organizations today make mistakes like the above without fully understanding the openness policy. If the bank had paid attention to the appeals in time and sought a solution, these problems would not have been brought to the media,” Olimjon Usarov said.

Also, the association head reminded that the responsibility for violating the policy of openness of the organization’s activity is also established and asked for an impartial, legal assessment of the situation.

The rector of the University of Journalism and Mass Communications of Uzbekistan, Sherzodkhon Kudratkhodja, noted that setting a high amount as a fine to mass media may hinder their development in the future.

“Such cases are often observed in the world experience. In most of these cases, organizations with their reputation were discredited, and they demanded a symbolic $1 from the mass media, which caused it, and an official statement in the publication itself. After the court examines the process, the demands of the party found not guilty will be satisfied.

How much money Anorbank demands from Sof.uz publication is its business, whether the publication can pay this amount or not, this is also an uncertain side of the issue.

However, we should not forget that setting a disproportionately high amount as a fine to mass media by organizations may hinder the development of open mass media in the future,” Sherzodkhon Kudratkhodja said.

The author of Davletov.uz channel stated that solving the issue of Kobil Khidirov through the court is the right way, but asking for so much money for moral damage is a malicious approach that will completely ruin the site.

“I may not support the site’s activity, but I consider the amount demanded by Anorbank to be an inevitable, destructive action aimed at stifling freedom of speech. If the bank wanted to restore its business reputation, it would mark 1 soum as moral damages. The bank went the wrong way. If the bank does not change its position, I will boycott the bank for myself as a customer.

Of course, the court knows the practice of calculating moral damages, in this regard, the amount that the bank thought does not come out,” the blogger said.

Journalist and blogger Eldor Asanov also emphasized that the right way to resolve such conflicts is through the court, reminding that the voice of mass media is silenced by threats. However, the amount demanded by the bank seems to be a desire to close down the publication, not to protect the honor, the journalist says.

“The amount demanded by Anorbank from the publication is illogical; it seems that the bank wants to close down the publication, not just to protect its reputation. This can undoubtedly be considered a threat to freedom of speech.

In the foreign experience, there are many cases of lawsuits against the publication, but the amount of material damage to be collected is very large, which causes public dissatisfaction,” Asanov wrote.

In his opinion, an organization or structure that wants social justice should try to punish the media attack organized against it – not against media openness.

Human rights activist Abdurakhmon Tashanov said that the real goal in this case is to ax the principles of freedom of speech rather than serving the client.

“Of course, this process is a practice specific to the legal community, but if you look deeper into the issue, it seems that the real purpose of such an institution that doesn’t hold vinegar water is to ax the principles of freedom of speech more than to serve the client.

We hope that the bank’s claim that it will not stand in such a spade will not be proved in the courts. But here we call on supporters of open society to unite on the side of transparency and pluralism,” Tashanov said.

For information, on October 15, Sof.uz published a video so-called “Why did Anorbank’s financial tricks make customers angry?” The bank appealed to the court, stating that it believes that “information damaging to its business reputation was disseminated” in this video. At the same time, Anorbank filed a lawsuit against the site in the Economic Court.

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