Freedom of Information Center of Armenia.

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Towards dialogue between executive power and society


Anahit Stepanyan
Information bulletin 16

The efficiency of government’s activities greatly depends upon its transparency and openness, which contribute to the establishment and strengthening of links between authorities and simple citizens. This specific dialogue between authorities and citizens results in the formation of the society’s participatory and monitoring institute, in the presence of which the government’s and its subdivisions’ activities become more focused. In this context it is necessary to underline the importance of information accessibility without which the abovementioned activities would be incomplete.
In order to make the participation of citizens in the elaboration of state policy for public information services more effective, in 2004 the RA government made a decision on “the exemplary statutes of public relations division of state structures and the functions of press secretaries of the head of executive power”. Thanks to this document the dialogue between executive power and the public was moved on to a legal level. According to the Prime Minister’s decision public relations divisions of executive power, as well as the press secretary of the Prime Minister oblige to elaborate state policy for information and cooperation with the society and to monitor the implementation of that policy.

What was the situation before the government’s decision? In order to get an answer to any information inquiry people had to apply to at least four officials because there was some kind of a vicious circle where everybody tried to put the responsibility of answering a question to some other official. In such situations unhelpful was even the RA law on Freedom of Information, despite the fact that according to the 7th article of this law:

1. Information holder works out and publicizes the procedures according to which information is provided on its part, as defined by legislation, which he places in his office space, conspicuous for everyone.
2. Information holder urgently publicizes or via other accessible means informs the public about the information that he has, the publication of which can prevent dangers facing state and public security, public order, public health and morals, others’ rights and freedoms, environment, person’s property.
3. If it is not otherwise foreseen by the Constitution and/or the Law, information holder at least once a year publicize the following information related to his activity and or changes to it,

Activities and services provided (to be provided) to public:

1. Budget
2. Forms for written enquiries and the instructions for filling those in
3. Lists of personnel, as well as name, last name, education, profession, position, salary rate, business phone numbers and e-mails of officers
4. Recruitment procedures and vacancies
5. Influence on environment
6. Public events’ program
7. Procedures, day, time and place for accepting citizens
8.  Policy of cost creation and costs in the sphere of work and services
9. List of held (maintained) information and the procedures of providing it
10. Statistical and complete data on inquiries received, including grounds for refusal to provide information
11. Sources of elaboration or obtainment of information mentioned in this clause
12. Information on person entitled to clarify the information defined in this clause.

From legal point of view the right of people to request and receive information is protected whereas current situation in the sphere comes to prove the opposite. In some state governance structure of the Republic of Armenia bureaucracy is still on stream. Public relations divisions of executive powers seem to be engaged rather in image making of their structure or officials than providing objective information to the society. This opinion is partially supported also by the head of press and public relations of RA government Mary Harutyunyan. Thus, the government “currently takes measures for making public relations divisions of state structures serve their own purpose. That is to say, to make them ensure government’s publicity and provide objective, timely and complete information to beneficiaries – citizens, non-governmental organizations, mass media and all those who need information”.   
Together with the government, the existence and undisturbed operation of RA ministries’ web sites are also supportive for the achievement of transparency and openness of executive powers. According to the 17th decision of RA government made in 2004 the responsibility for web sites of RA ministries belongs to the public relations division of the government and the press secretary of the executive body. 

Now, let us try to find out the real state of affairs with the official web sites of RA ministries and governance bodies. Let us start with the web site of RA government ( The web site begins with the RA Prime Minister’s welcome speech, which says the following: “The Government attaches enormous importance to an open and publicly transparent modus operandi, facilitated by information sharing and feedback over this medium of electronic communication. The Government's web site can be highly resourceful to learn about the economic policies of the executive authority, projects currently underway, progress with reforms, and up-to-date information on meetings, discussions, and decisions taken by the Government on a same-day basis.

Surveying the web sites of RA ministries it is perhaps necessary to start with the web site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (

On the web site of RA Ministry of Agriculture ( we can read the following: “This web site is an open dialogue invitation from the RA Ministry of Agriculture to organizations and individuals who are interested in agriculture development, trends, functions and problems”. The web site provides complete and comprehensible information, but we could not see any trends of dialogue here.  

The web sites of RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs ( and the Ministry of Economy and Finances ( are functioning properly.

Logging on the web site of the RA Ministry of Defense ( we can see that from the point of view of information, it is in poor condition. “Press” and “Publications” sections of the web site are not functioning. Perhaps the only advantage of the web site is that it contains legislations and legislative acts concerning military sphere.   

The web site of the RA Ministry of Energy ( is not functioning. As for the web site of RA Ministry of Transport and Communication (, it is guided by the PR principle. From February 2006 “Armentel” introduced new tariffs for digital automatic telephone system. Every citizen is interested in those changes. But the web site of the Ministry of Transport and Communication does not contain information on this issue. For the sake of justice it should be noted that the web site provides complete and detailed information on the condition roads in the Republic of Armenia. Let us agree that it is useful information.     

The web site of the Ministry of Education and Science ( is in quite a poor condition. Some pages are empty, others are said to be under construction.

Strange as it may seem, we, being proud of our culture and cultural heritage, do not have a web site of the Ministry of Culture... especially now, when Russia and France have officially dedicated this year to Armenian culture. God forbid anyone in France or Russia take interest in the cultural policy of the RA Ministry of Culture. Those people will be surprised to find out that the ministry does not have a web site to provide such information.

The Ministry of Town Planning does not have a web site either. The Ministry of Territorial Administration does not even have an e-mail address, so it is out of place to speak about a web site.

It should also be mentioned that the design and structure of all the functioning web sites of ministries are different which makes it difficult for users to search for information. RA government has started monitoring activities aimed at improving the web sites. The head of press and public relations department of the government suggests creating a general web site model, which will be applied for the web sites of all the ministries.

This problem needs state care because the web sites of the ministries were created within the frames of various grant programs. The head of press and public relations department of RA government Mary Harutyunyan thinks that those sites do not actually function but occupy domains. And it is a shame that in this century of information technologies the executive power of the Republic or Armenia is not able to create and properly run an Internet site. Here everything is well ordered. The web site provides complete information and is regularly updated. The web site of the Ministry of Justice ( is also in proper condition. Functioning in the web site is the Armenian Legal Information System (ARLIS), which electronically publishes legislative acts functioning in the Republic of Armenia. Speaking about the web site of the Ministry of Ecology ( it is important to underline that “The aim of this web site is to inform you urgently about activities and initiatives being undertaken in the Ministry in the sphere of nature protection. It is aimed as well to support the ensuring of the fulfillment of every human being right to live in the environment favorable for health and well being, the ensuring of public participation in environmental decision-making, as well as of information accessibility”. Survey shows that on initial stages this web site was treated seriously but in the course of time maintenance of the site stopped. For example the “Eco Yerevan” page was last updated on April 16, 2003. The list of foreign-funded programs, implemented by the RA Ministry of Ecology, was last updated in April 2003.      

During the survey the web sites of RA Ministry of Health ( and Trade and Economic Development ( were not functioning.

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