IV. Governance issues
On September 23, 2003, the law on Freedom of Information was adopted in the Republic of Armenia. The main principles of securing freedom of information are: a) definition of unified procedures to record, classify and maintain information; b) insurance of freedom to seek and get information; c) insurance of information access; d) publicity However, the law provides also some limitations of freedom of information.
Information holder refuses to provide information if: it infringes the privacy of a person and his family, including the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, post, telegraph and other transmissions; With the exception of cases if the decline of the information request will have a negative influence on the implementation of state programs of the Republic of Armenia directed to socio-economic, scientific, spiritual and cultural development.
Activity concerning the use of archives is also regulated by law. Relevant law was adopted on of June 8, 2004. In the archives may be kept the documents that are considered to be state or communal property. Moreover, by owner's agreement, documents that are considered to be property of legal entity or natural person may also be kept in the archives.
A person who uses archival documents has a right to a free search and to receive archival documents from state and municipal archives for research purposes. However, accessibility of archival documents may be limited to a person who uses archival documents by a decision of owners of archival documents that are considered to be a property of legal entity or natural person. Accessibility of archival documents that contain information on personal or family secrets is limited for the 100-year period since their creation, provided the law does not state otherwise. Archival documents that contain information on personal or family secrets may be available earlier than 100 years since their creation by a written permission of a person or after his/her death by a written permission of his/her heir.1
A suit brought by the Investigative Journalists NGO in 2004 against the Yerevan Mayor's Office for refusing to provide the organization with information ended in victory. In a June 2006 decision, the court ordered the Mayor's Office to provide the information and also ordered the Ministry of Finances and Economy to pay 300,000 Drams (626 EUR) to the Investigative Journalists in damages caused by the illegal actions of an official. This is the first time than an Armenian court has ever awarded damages in a freedom of information suit. This precedent should serve as an example to both reporters who are denied access to public information and officials who refuse to provide it. As one organization of journalists stated, "from now on, the bureaucrats must understand a refusal to provide any reporter or citizen with information will cause material damage to the state budget of Armenia."2
Armenia ratified the CoE Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No.185) on October 12, 2006. 3 It has signed and ratified the ECHR.4 In a July 2007 statement, President Kocharian said that Armenia is not looking to join either NATO or the EU.5
Armenia joined the European Union Neighborhood Policy Union in 2004. In August 2006, the European Union and Armenia successfully completed negotiations on the Final Policy Action Plan, which will serve as the main instrument for bilateral relations for the next five years. The plan sets out clear steps that the Armenian government should achieve in numerous fields including rule of law, democracy, economic and business development, trade, energy, and resolution of internal conflicts. The report identifies media independence and plurality as being one of the key areas of needed improvement.6