Officials Who Do Not Provide Information May Be Fined Up To Five Times More

Gayane Asryan


The Freedom of Information Center has submitted a petition to the Ministry of Justice, proposing to increase the amount of the fine for violating the right to information.

“No changes have been made in the administrative code related to surveys since 2003, while the amount of fines related to the activities of journalists and media outlets is changing rapidly and today reaches up to 6 million AMD. There is a need for the amount outlined in fines for violating the right to information to be commensurate with today’s reality,” said NGO President Shushan Doydoyan.

According to her, until the norms of administrative responsibility are applied, the practice of full, exhaustive and timely responses to inquiries will not develop.

According to Doydoyan, the change in the law on “Administrative Offenses” will be of a preventive nature, the amount of the fine for illegally failing to provide information may be increased by 200 times.

“The current law does not envisage responsibility for violating the deadlines. With this application, we propose to impose a fine of thirty to fifty times the minimum wage for violating the deadlines in a written request,” she said.

The experience of the Freedom of Information Center shows that in recent years the violations of answering inquiries in accordance with the law are increasing.

According to the statistics posted on the NGO website, Givmeinfo.am, and the statistics of their survey responses, in the case of 18% of written inquiries from 2019 to date, the information holders did not provide all or part of the required information.

3% of the inquiries did not receive any answer at all (silent refusals), 9% of the answers were incomplete, i.e. some of the information requested in the inquiry was not provided, in the case of 3% there was an unfounded refusal, i.e. the information was not provided, it was rejected.

In the case of another 3%, an unfounded response was received, when the expected provision of information was not denied in a formal sense, but the required information was not provided. 19% of requests for information were answered in violation of the deadlines set by law.

The head of the NGO says that the proposed change will have a positive impact on the process of providing information, officials will be more vigilant, refrain from providing information required by law illegally, ignoring inquiries, providing incomplete or unfounded answers, or unreasonably refusing to provide information.

Doydoyan says that the issue of expedited investigation of cases on violations of providing information in case of overload of administrative courts is also important.

“The media and journalists often fight for so long in court over their right to receive information that even if the court satisfies their request, the importance of the information required already diminishes. It even becomes meaningless to touch upon that topic,” said the chairman of the NGO.

Grisha Balasanyan works on the website of the “Investigative Journalists” NGO’s hetq.am, there have been cases when he would send inquiries to up to 10 state agencies a week.

He’s noticed that the terms are being violated more and more, the answers are often flawed, incomplete. You have to make a double request to get the necessary information.

“I rarely receive full answers within 5 days. For example, recently I sent a request to the Ministry of Defense, and within 5 days they answered that they need additional time. On the 47th day, I received an answer that the required information contained state and official secrets,” Grisha said.

He has the impression that with this way of working the state agencies are delaying the provision of information so that the public attention on the given topic is reduced and the information provided to them is of no value.

“An example of deliberately putting a topic to sleep is addressing the queries to other state bodies. After about a month, an answer is received that they do not have that information. After such an experience with the Ministry of Environment, I wrote to the Prime Minister that I do not receive the information I need from the Ministry. Within 5 days, the Prime Minister’s Office replied that they would respond within 30 days,” he said.

According to the journalist, if an official is fined once or twice, the expediency of his work can be discussed, especially if the fines are paid at the expense of state funds.

The justification of the petition states that with these changes there is no need for additional financial resources, there is no need for changes in state budget revenues and expenditures.

If the Ministry of Justice approves these changes related to fines, the bill will go to the Government, then will be discussed in the National Assembly.

Gayane Asryan

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