Parliament on Friday approved a government proposal to restrict journalists’ access to Yerevan City Council sessions.
The mayor of the Armenian capital, Taron Markarian, decided to impose such a ban last month, just days after an embarrassing brawl witnessed by journalists.
Two members of the opposition Yerkir Tsirani city council quarreled with their pro-government colleagues when they tried to hand Markarian glass containers filled with sewage collected in a damaged sewer pipe into the city. Nubarashen district.
Yerkir Tsirani’s Marina Khachatrian slapped a male advisor representing the ruling Republican Party (HHK) after being jostled by him. The latter slapped Khachatrian while another HHK advisor tore his hair. Khachatrian and two other members of Yerkir Tsirani, including party leader Zaruhi Postanjian, were then physically forced to leave the room.
A week after the incident, Markarian called for “regulating” the work of the press accredited by the municipality. A spokesman for the mayor then said that journalists will now be able to watch the council debates only through screens placed in a newsroom.
The government accepted the proposed restrictions, drafting the corresponding legal amendments that were adopted by the National Assembly. They stipulate that the press will now need special permission from the mayor to attend Council sessions.
Minister of Justice Davit Harutiunian argued that the same rules are already in place for media coverage of sessions of the Armenian Parliament. “We do not interfere with [the journalists] and they do not interfere with us,” he told Parliament. “The same rules will be introduced for Yerevan council sessions.”
Edmon Marukian, a leader of the opposition Yelk alliance, denounced the new rules, saying they “will restrict the rights of journalists.” He linked them to the February 13 violence in the Council.
Markarian spokesman Artur Gevorgian insisted earlier that the restrictions are not intended to cover up incidents of this kind. He added that the city administration will install more video cameras in the room to ensure transparency of procedures. However, the official noted that the live broadcast of the proceedings could be interrupted in case of “hooliganism” on the part of the advisers.
Claire © armenews.com