The Principles are adopted by civil society and government 100 representatives in Yerevan during the Freedom of Information in Armenia Workshop organized by Freedom of Information Center of Armenia with support of British Embassy in Armenia and US Agency for International Development on December 9, 2005 – International Anti-Corruption Day.
These principles were developed by the Freedom of Information Center based on Recommendation N° Rec (2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Access to Official Documents adopted in 2002 and Freedom of Information Principles adopted by the Open Society Justice Initiatives on September 28, 2005 – International Freedom of Information Day.
Freedom of Information Principles are based on international FOI standards and basic regulations of the RA Law on Freedom of Information and include FOI national and international practice.
Being sure that the freedom of information has vital importance for development of democratic society in Armenia, as well as for protection of basic human rights and freedoms,
Taking into account that the freedom of information:
- makes real and effective the struggle against corruption,
- promotes the realization and protection of human rights,
- encourages the efficiency and effectiveness of public administration and helps it to avoid the risk of corruption,
- contributes to strengthening of the public’s confidence in state authorities,
- helps to reduce the poverty,
- contributes to environment protection,
- promotes the efficiency of decision making,
Bearing in mind the basic principles of the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 19 of the European Convention on Civil and Political rights, Recommendation N° Rec (2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Access to Official Documents, UN’s Access to Information, Aarhus Convention on Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, and Open Society Justice Initiative’s Freedom of Information Principles,
We are announcing our readiness to adopt and realize the following principles of the freedom of information:
1. Access to information is a right of everyone.
Anyone, regardless of his/her profession, sex, position, and other conditions, has the right to get acquainted with the information sought by him and/or address an inquiry to information holder to get that information as defined by the law. This right belongs to everyone without any discrimination.
2. Access is the rule – secrecy is the exception.
All information held by government bodies is public in principle. The official information is open until the opposite is proved. The information holder should justify his case.
3. The public has a right to receive information in the possession of all state bodies, local self-government bodies, state offices, state and local government budget funded organizations as well as organizations of public importance and their officials.
4. There is no need to justify the information request.
The requestor is not obliged to justify the information request and mention the purpose of applying for the information or how he is going to use it.
5. Making requests should be simple, speedy, and free.
Requestors should be able to file requests in written or oral form. The only requirements should be ones defined by the Law. Information should be provided at the earliest possible date or within the timeframe defined by the Law. The provided information should be complete, accurate and essential.
6. Refusals must be justified.
6.1. The information holder is obliged to justify the refusal. The information provision may be confined only on the grounds defined by the Law. If a part of the information required contains data, the disclosure of which is subject to denial, than information is provided concerning the other part.
The denial to provide the information cannot be justified on the grounds of causing trouble to an official or a body, or limited time.
6.2. The limitation of the right of access to information must be clearly and specifically defined by law, be essential for a democratic society and directed to protection of legal rights.
7. The public interest takes precedence over secrecy.
Information request can not be declined, if:
a) it concerns urgent cases threatening public security and health, as well as natural disasters (including officially forecasted ones) and their aftermaths;
b) it presents the overall economic situation of the Republic of Armenia, as well as the real situation in the spheres of nature and environment protection, health, education, agriculture, trade and culture;
c) if the decline of the information request will have a negative influence on the implementation of state programs of the Republic of Armenia directed d to socioeconomic, scientific, spiritual and cultural development.
8. Everyone has the right to appeal an adverse decision.
Such decisions should be subject to prompt and effective review. For illegal refusal to provide information, or for the incomplete information disposal, as well as for other infringements of the information freedom defined by the Law, the official persons responsible for information freedom are held responsible.
9. Every public body should take necessary steps to publish the information it holds, as well as make available information about its functions and responsibilities, without need for an information request.
The information is publicized via means accessible for public, and in cases when the information holder has an internet page, also via that page.
10. The right of access to information should be guaranteed by the Human Rights Defender, as well as by the RA Courts.