On August 3, “Iravaban.net” news website founded by the Armenian Lawyers’ Association NGO published an article entitled “The Competition Announced for the Membership of NGOs in the Anti-Corruption Policy Council was Held with Violations; the Results for Four NGOs are Illegal.” The basis for the publication is the decree 808-N of June 24, 2019 of RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with its respective annex, responses to inquiries received from the Government and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, as well as announcements and information notes on the official websites of the state agencies.
Fact Investigation Platform also studied the above-mentioned documents and received comments from RA Ministry of Justice. Comparing the publication of “Iravaban.net” and the response of the RA Ministry of Justice shows that the news website is quite biased and gives manipulative comments on the competition announced for involving NGOs in the Anti-Corruption Policy Council.
On extension of the competition deadline
No clarification for extending the deadline of the competition initially set on July 10 by the Ministry of Justice is inquired and provided in the publication of “Iravaban.net” the text of which is quite manipulative. News website suggests “valid suspicions that a preliminary, illegitimate and unlawful arrangement between NGOs and RA Ministry of Justice was made and that the latter extended the competition deadline for one day in order to ensure the involvement of pre-agreed NGOs in the Anti-Corruption Policy Council. ”
However, on July 10, there was a major power accident that resulted in power outages and fluctuations in several regions of Armenia, particularly in Yerevan, disrupting normal operation of many institutions. Although the RA Ministry of Justice did not provide a clear reason in the announcement on the one-day extension, however, the clarification given to FIP.am noted that the main problem was the crash in power system which resulted in a decision to postpone the competition only for one day to create opportunity for NGOs.
On the Minutes of Application Examination
The publication of “Iravaban.net” also manipulates the finalization of competition, preparation of minutes of outcomes and the activities of the Council. Thus, the author raises the question “if the competition is considered completed at 6:00 pm, July 11 (end of working day of the Ministry of Justice), then how has the Investigative Journalists NGO’s application been considered and approved if it was sent at 6:13 pm July 11? And if the deadline was at 23:59 pm, July 11, when were the results of the competition discussed and summed up, if the minutes were also drawn up on July 11? ”
The RA Ministry of Justice informed FIP.am that the announcement made by them stated only the day and not the hour of closing of the call and therefore the deadline was assumed at 29:59, July 11.
The RA Prime Minister’s decree 808-N and its annex did not in any way define the deadline for drawing up minutes. Therefore, the summary of the results of the competition could be both batch-based (ed. this option was applied) as well as one by one.
The Ministry of Justice informed FIP.am that the competition was open until the end of July 11, but no other applications were received until 23:59 pm. Otherwise, the ministry would have drafted an additional protocol and invited the organizations that had applied to the first meeting of the Council. As the response given by the RA Ministry of Justice to the question of “Iravaban.net” shows, there were 6 bidding organizations and the last bid was submitted by “Investigative Journalists” NGO.
On Non-Transparent Activities of the Council
As for the claim that the RA Anti-Corruption Policy Council meeting was closed to the public, there is manipulation here as well. According to the procedure there is no requirement for a live broadcast of the Council meetings or a mandatory procedure to send an invitation to the media to cover the meetings. Whereas, the session was covered by the Information and Public Relations Department of the Prime Minister’s Office according to the procedure and there were publications on the day of the meeting in the media. For instance, RFE / RL notifiede about the meeting on July 10 and covered the first meeting on July 12.
Publications on the meeting are available in a number of media outlets. Moreover, the coverage and transparency was not less compared to the transparency of the activities of the former Anti-Corruption Council (of which Armenian Lawyers’ Association was also a member). However, the first competition for membership in the Anti-Corruption Council since the 2018 revolution was boycotted by the Armenian Lawyers’ Association.
PS. It should be noted that the Fact Investigation Platform has not conducted any study on the legal assessment or comments by “Iravaban.net.” and will therefore refrain from commenting on the legal aspect of the competition in terms of fact-checking.