On March 5 the expanded meeting of “Partnership for Open Society” coalition, uniting over 30 non-governmental organizations, was held. It was devoted to the draft law on amending the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”, approved by the RA Government (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 20-26, 2004).
The RA National Assembly deputy, one of the authors of the Law Victor Dallakian and a representative of “Democracy” NGO Vardan Poghosian noted that the Law “On Freedom of Information” adopted on September 23 and enforced since November 14, 2003 is quite progressive and is up to international standards. Therefore, the amendments approved by the Government on February 12, when the Law has not been actually applied, are premature, particularly, since their majority reduced the democratic potential of the acting legislation. The allusions of the amendment authors to the controversies within the Law and its contradiction to the RA Constitution, as quoted in the appropriate resolution of the Government, are groundless.
The initiative of the Government to introduce amendments to the Law “On Freedom of Information” has already received broad negative response both in Armenia and abroad. The calls to withdraw the governmental amendments were already voiced by Freedom of Information Civic Initiate, “Article 19” Global Campaign for Free Expression, Open Society Justice Initiative.
Common amazement is caused by the fact that despite the numerous requests, neither the RA Ministry of Justice that authored the amendments, nor the Government presented the official text of the draft approved to the public organization, despite the numerous requests, thus seriously violating the principles of freedom of information as such.
As a result of a discussion at an expanded session of the “Partnership for Open Society” and upon the suggestion of the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian an address to the RA Government was passed, made up of four main demands:
– To withdraw the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Additions to the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”;
– To ensure the application of the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”, passed in September 23, including the speedy development and adoption of the appropriate sublegislative acts, not to relate the possible need for the improvement of the Law to its application;
– Should there be initiatives on amending the law, to broadly discuss them with representatives of civil society;
– When initiating amendments to the Law, to supplement them by specific and detailed justification.