Journalists were banned to enter the conference hall of the government: what was the reason?

Today, on August 9, on the successive day of the government session, the journalists were forbidden to enter the conference hall. They were surprised. Moreover, the representatives of the media outlets, one after another, started live streaming over Facebook and leaving comments: “Arman Yeghoyan, the Prime Minister’s press secretary forbids the journalists to move around the government building”, “artificial impediment by the new government: welcome to new Armenia”, “there are new customs, new impediments in the Government; the Prime Minister’s press secretary does not allow to go up to the conference hall: why? By which law?” Some even went further up to “…what about the revolution…?”

The Prime Minister’s Press secretary Arman Yeghoyan explained the decision on the ban as follows: “The security regime is being violated. It is hard to control who is going where in the building.”

Is it bimutual unawareness of the law, or did the journalists get used to the freedom given after the revolution and do not tolerate any ban, even required by the law? Or maybe there are other problems in the government? By the way, later the social media published a photo, in front of the government building, on the façade of the “Armenia Marriott” hotel, a poster was put, saying, “Free the President”. It was about Ex-president Robert Kocharyan. How his supporters’ poster happened to be on the façade of the building, is still unknown, but is this the true reason for the “emergency regime” in the government?

Arman Yeghoyan opened the brackets a little: “The security service made such a decision, as a result of discussions.” But this is a completely different situation, and if this is not repeated, can the journalists continue entering the conference hall of the government freely?

It is suitable moment to remind that under the ruling of the RPA, on March 23, the Parliament passed the scandalous “Law on Government structure and activity”, according to which the government sessions should be held behind the doors. And only as a result of good will by Nikol Pashinyan, using the opportunity stipulated by the same law, the very first session of the new government was held publicly, and the same modus operandi continues until now. A quote from the law: Chapter 4, Article 10.15, “15. Government sessions are behind the doors. By the Prime Minister’s decision, part of the session can be held publicly.”

The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression has raised this problem a number of times, and along with partner organizations it has made statements. In this respect, the CPFE expressed its concern in its recent quarterly reports. The freedom given to the journalists, which is not stipulated by law, cannot be stable. The new government can get tired of the journalists’ questions, and in line with the law, hold the sessions behind doors, can’t it? It is necessary that the highest executive body’s operation being open to the mass media is enshrined in the law, through making changed in the aforementioned law. And in this respect the journalists should also be initiators and demanding

Hasmik Boudaghyan

Media Expert to CPFE