Freedom of Information Center of Armenia.

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Expert says Armenian government’s bill destroys its accountability to society


YEREVAN, February 9. /ARKA/. A bill drafted by Armenia’s justice ministry stipulating that cabinet meetings must be held behind the closed doors will destroy all the mechanisms that are being used to make the government accountable to the society, Shushan Doydoyan, the head of the Freedom of Information Center, told a news conference today.

She downplayed justice minister David Harutyunyan’s arguments that the presence of journalists at cabinet sessions deters ministers from voicing critical opinions about decisions or policies of their peers.

Armenian journalists reporting on the government’s performance have been able to watch weekly cabinet sessions through monitors placed in the press room in the government building.

"Journalists are there just to daunt government members so that they make decisions stemming from the society’s interest, rather than from their personal ones," said Doydoyan. Doydoyan stressed that if this draft law is adopted, then other government agencies will follow suit and make their meetings closed too.

"By prohibiting journalists from entering the government meeting hall, the government infringes on the right of the society to receive information, because journalists are just intermediaries," she said. Boris Navasardyan, the president of the Yerevan Press Club, added that in other developed democracies where government meetings are held in closed format, there are other mechanisms of keeping the public at large informed.

"In Armenia, these mechanisms are not developed. That was why it had been decided to allow the journalists to watch cabinet sessions," Navasardyan said.

The head of the Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Speech Ashot Melikyan stressed that the desire to hold cabinet meetings in closed format means that members of the government are not ready to be public figures.

"If they do not discuss state secrets, why hold cabinet meetings in a closed format. I see serious corruption risks here and the tendency to keep many issues secret from the society. Such work can not be effective," Melikyan said.  


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