Activists in Armenia are worrying that new government-proposed requirements for non-governmental organizations will undermine Armenia’s relatively freely functioning civil-society sector. Some believe that the Armenian government, in mulling upending the status quo, is seeking to please the country’s economic and strategic overlord – Russia.
In 2014, the Washington, DC-based watchdog group Freedom House lauded Armenia’s civil society as “active, diverse and independent.” The proposed amendments threaten to throw Armenia’s civil society sector into reverse gear.
Under amendments to Armenia’s law on non-governmental organizations, drafted last November, NGOs would need to provide officials with detailed, annual financial reports, as well as be subjected to a yearly audit. The government would be able to petition a court to annul the registration of any NGO that fails twice to comply with these requirements. Justice Ministry officials also would be able to attend NGO board meetings.
A vote on the amendments has not yet been scheduled in the Armenian parliament.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.