The sessions of Yerevan’s City Council cannot be held behind closed doors, Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan said on Wednesday, responding to concerns about controversial plans of the Armenian capital’s municipality to limit media access to meetings of its legislature.
“It is one thing to hold closed sessions of the government, but a different thing when it comes to the municipality where different principles are applied. The municipality is a representative body where people are elected by citizens just like the parliament. I consider it inadmissible to hold City Council sessions behind closed doors,” Tatoyan told media after today’s government session.
According to the ombudsman, journalists should not be considered by state bodies as “persons standing on the opposite side of the barricades.”
After an incident at the Yerevan City Council in February when media witnessed an embarrassing brawl between opposition and pro-government members of the body, the Mayor’s Office’s Information Department head Artur Gevorgian said that journalists would no longer be allowed to work in the Council’s sessions hall.
According to Gevorgian, the media will be provided with separate premises for covering the Council sessions. “It is not necessary to be inside the sessions hall. It cannot be viewed as a restriction in any way. Journalists will continue to move freely inside the [municipality] building on the days of council sessions,” he said.
Some media experts in Armenia have suggested that a recently adopted law controversially allowing the central government to hold closed sessions may have encouraged low-level authorities to follow suit.