On November 14, making a speech at the RA National Assembly, deputy from the Republican Party Hayk Babukhanyan talked about the necessity to “close” the NGOs funded by “Soros Foundation” (“Open Society Foundations”). Babukhanyan accused the organization of financing the student protests against cancelling the military deferment. In his speech, the deputy made a number of statements containing disinformation about NGOs operating in Armenia, particularly about “Public Agenda” NGO.
“According to our information, Public Agenda NGO has received 20.000 USD grant from Soros Foundation in order to fight against, criticize and discredit the “Nation-Army” concept that is so important for us. The grant requirements include organization of criticism among university students, the subsequent formation of focus groups, formation of some phenomena around these groups; so what we see today is the influence of the evil Soros”, Babukhanyan stated without commenting on what he meant by “some phenomena”.
First of all, the information about receiving a 20,000 USD grant is publicly available, and can be found in the official website of “Open Society Foundations”. Thus, the mysterious formulation “according to our information” used by Babukhanyan refers to information available to everyone.
The same website contains information about the purpose of the grant as well. Calling it “fight against, criticism and discrediting of “Nation-Army” concept” is simply a distortion of reality, wrong translation and disinformation.
According to the description of the grant, it is aimed at “critically assessing the “Nation-Army” concept through independent expertise and understanding how this campaign is perceived among the university students. For this purpose, Public Agenda NGO plans to hold expert discussions around the “Nation-Army” concept and generate alternative to this notion, which will be communicated to the wider public”. In any case, at least this description, to which Babukhanyan makes a reference, does not assume any “fight” or “discrediting”. It is another question that the current government understands “criticism”, i.e. critical thinking in negative terms.
Another misleading point is that Babukhanyan identifies the project “focus groups” with the group of active students that protest against the bill. According to the project, the aim of the “focus groups” to be created is organizing “further public discussions around the “Nation-Army” concept. Hence, Babukhanyan has intentionally distorted reality.
The dates of awarding the grant do not correspond to reality either. The grant application for the aforementioned project was submitted on August 22, and the grant was awarded on October 5. This means that the process lasted one and a half months, rather than a few days, as Babukhanyan claims.
Introducing the phenomenon of receiving foreign grants in the negative light from the National Assembly platform, and trying to start a fight against it, the RPA deputy Babukhanyan forgets that the largest foreign grant recipient in the Republic of Armenia is the RA government. In 2008-2014, the RA government received almost half a billion USD worth foreign grants. About 80% of the grant money came from the European Union and the US.
P.S. Such comments by the RA Member of Parliament about the “Open Society Foundations” remind of the policy the official Baku adopted with regard to this organization. The official Baku also criticized this foundation by viewing it on the same plane with the “Armenian lobby”.