Students protest potential amendments on conscription

Peaceful Assembly

On 25th October 2017, Armenian students organised a protest in front of the parliament building over new regulations proposed by the Defense Ministry regarding military conscription. The proposals "envisage that draft deferments will only be granted to those students who will enter into an agreement with the Defense Ministry to serve in the armed forces as contract officers for three years after graduation”. The protesters argued that the government should be focusing on more pressing issues, such as corruption, health care, etc. 

At the end of October 2017, around 200 Armenian entrepreneurs protested against new amendments to the tax code, arguing that the changes represent another form of economic pressure on small and medium-sized enterprises. Previously, the entrepreneurs tried to negotiate with the government to revoke these amendments, but without much success. The new amendments will enter into force on 1st January 2018. 

Expression

The OSCE Representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Désir, visited Armenia in October 2017, during which time he emphasised the need to promote freedom of the media and safe conditions for journalists to work in Armenia. He also stated that the new Freedom of Information Law must avoid limiting citizens’ right to access to information. 

Previously, in May 2017 Professor Dr. Otto Luchterhandt, an expert from the German Society for International Cooperation, stated that the existing Law on Freedom of Information - voted on in 2002 and amended several times over the past years - has numerous flaws. He added that Armenian officials have sought to conceal information from the public, using their control of information as a means to gain and secure power. 

Access to information is a highly-debated topic in Armenia. Civil society monitoring shows that there is a tendency to limit citizens' access to information in the public interest, and this jeopardises their right to be informed and curtails journalists' work.

The new edition of the quarterly country report by the Yerevan-based Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression was released in October 2017. According to the report, the situation has improved compared to the previous period as the total number of violations against media has decreased compared with the previous quarter (from 72 to 57 reported incidents). On the other hand, the number of violations of the rights to receive and disseminate information has increased four times. 

Association

At the end of October 2017, the Armenian NGO Center organised a meeting on the topic of “Cross-cutting Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities” for regional NGOs from Armenia. The meeting aimed to empower regional civil society with opportunities for sustainable and successful partnerships. The event brought together more than 80 representatives of regional organisations as well as stakeholders.