Journalists will not be allowed to attend the inauguration on Monday’s of Armenia’s new president, Armen Sarkissian, a senior official said on Friday.
Sarkissian will be sworn in at a special session of the Armenian parliament which overwhelmingly elected him president last month. The session will be held at a large concert hall, rather than the parliament building in Yerevan.
The chief of the parliament’s press service, Arsen Babayan, said parliamentary correspondents will only be able to watch a live broadcast of the ceremony from a National Assembly press room. Only the heads of 53 “leading media outlets” will be invited to attend the inauguration, he said, calling that an “additional opportunity for press coverage.”
“Journalists accredited with the National Assembly have no right to enter the main National Assembly auditorium,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They cover [parliament sessions] from special rooms. The same principle will apply to the coverage of the special parliament session.”
Babayan also said that the invited media chiefs will be allowed to “freely carry out their professional activities” during the inauguration. He did not specify the news organizations whose chief executives will receive such invitations.
Opposition leaders denounced these restrictions. One of them, Nikol Pashinian, said: “This is what we mean when we say that [the outgoing President] Serzh Sarkisian is building a deceitful Azerbaijani-style state.”
Sarkisian is widely expected to become prime minister and thus extend his decade-long rule just days after completing his final presidential term on Monday. His successor will have largely ceremonial powers.
Armen Sarkissian has repeatedly stated in recent weeks that despite the lack of executive powers he intends to play a major role in Armenia’s political and economic life. In particular, he has pledged to strive to heal what he sees as serious divisions existing within the Armenian society.