ARMENIA: Amendments threaten to undermine FOI law

23 February 2004

Freedom of Information Civic Initiative
Yerevan, 19.02.2004

STATEMENT

Proposed amendments to the Armenian Law on Freedom of Information will undermine the right of access to information if adopted by the Armenian parliament. The amendments, to the FOI law adopted in September 2003, limit the information which should be made available under the law and provide greater scope for exemptions and classification of information through other laws which could override the FOI law.

"The proposed changes pose a serious threat to government transparency and anti-corruption initiatives in Armenia," commented Shushan Doydoyan on behalf of the Freedom of Information Civic Initiative, which is calling for the Government to withdraw the amendments.

"When the current law was adopted by the Government, the National Assembly, and the President just five months ago, it was hailed by various international organizations as one of the best Laws on Freedom of Information in the world, as well as one of the best laws adopted in Armenia in 2003. The amendments proposed by the Ministry of Justice run the risk of discrediting this achievement."

The Freedom of Information Civil Initiative notes that in addition to restricting the information available to the public, the amendments broaden the law to cover all legal persons and private entrepreneurs. Every private business – including even a small restaurant or a shoe shop – would be under the obligation to appoint information officers, define procedures for providing information orally or in writing, and produce a register of all information held. And once a year they would be obliged to publish a range of information including the names and educational level of all staff and the ‘procedure for receiving citizens’.

"Broadening the law in this way undermines the concept of public access to government-held information as established in international law, including in Council of Europe Recommendation 2002(2)," commented Doydoyan. "The amendments would cause confusion and would undermine public confidence in the right of access to information and in the government’s commitment to transparency."

The Freedom of Information Civil Initiative calls on the government to withdraw the proposed amendments to the Law on Freedom of Information and to restate its commitment to implementing the FOI law currently in force. We strongly believe that implementation of the Acting Law will become an outstanding achievement of already declared political will of the authorities of Armenia.

A Statement in Armenian has been sent to the National Assembly, the President, the Government, Mass media and the Ministry of Justice of Armenia.

For additional information please contact:
Karen Andreassyan, PhD, Lecturer of Law Department of YSU (tel.: (09) 413542)
Shushan Doydoyan, PhD, Chairperson of Information Freedom Center, Lecturer of Journalism Department of YSU (tel. (09) 407836)
Artak Kirakosyan, Chairperson of Civil Society Institute (tel.: (09) 403609)

 

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