The speakers included: Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression; Armine Ohanyan, Editor-in-Chief of Hraparak Daily; Daniel Ioannisyan, Programs Manager at Union of Informed Citizens, NGO; and Lena Nazaryan, Civil Contract Party.
“Clause 65 of the draft Electoral Code contains quite absurd and strange restrictions with regard to journalists and observers, and it seems difficult to give any explanation for it. These provisions must be removed, either media society has to bring forward some proposals, and strive for establishing provisions that would create significantly more favourable conditions for journalists than under current legislation,” Ashot Melikian said.
He mentioned that strange and hardly feasible functions are given to chairpersons of electoral commissions through committed changes, that is to control both the voting process as such and activity of journalists and observers.
“In fact, a chairman of electoral commission has to count permanently how many journalists or observers are in the polling place at a given moment, and then decide at his own choosing whom it seems proper to remove out from the polling station in order to let journalists go inside. It is simply unacceptable,” Melikian summarized.
Armine Ohanyan, for her part, noted: “Perhaps our fears are exaggerated, perhaps there practically will not occur an incident when the presence of 8 persons would not be enough, or mass media would face obstacles concerning being at given polling place. However, the question is that our public has a strong distrust towards electoral processes. So, if the authorities wanted to increase this trust, they should have avoided any restriction at all. Not to increase the quantity of restrictions and implement such absurd things, but quite the contrary: to extend the possibilities, starting from the accreditation procedure, in order that every observer and journalist could enter the polling place freely and watch the process.”