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August 30, 2005

ACNIS Examines Information Security

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) has convened a number of policy roundtables on security matters, especially concerning national, economic, and energy safety. Today’s roundtable was devoted to information security against the background of national and global safety. The meeting brought together those formerly and currently in charge of the sector, experts, social and political observers, and media representatives.

ACNIS analyst Alvard Barkhudarian greeted the audience with opening remarks. She talked about the traditional and current problems facing information security, the relevant developments within the international arena, the role played by the media and journalists in working within the domain of information security, and other points. “We are deeply convinced that Armenia must have a conception of information safety that should not be used for propaganda purposes, but instead ought to help information professionals make more influential the information and communication technologies (ICT) or other news sources in which they work. In general, this conception must be geared toward the future and the improvement of Armenian society’s living standard,” Barkhudarian noted.

A policy intervention by Boris Navasardian, the Yerevan Press Club chairman, encompassed the international experience and legislation regarding information security and also presented interesting details about its status in Armenia. According to him, since the world is changing, information security is becoming a contemporary issue and the following three trends are being observed: the increasing influence of democratic values on geopolitical events; the fight against terrorism; and the development of new technologies. Navasardian also presented the international norms for information safety. He noted that Armenia’s laws solely contain prohibitions or restrictions. The dissemination of certain information is banned, but no mechanism is proposed to stop it. The role of the media and information is being disregarded.

In his address, Aram Abrahamian, the chief editor of the “Aravot” daily, touched upon the concept of “dangerous” information, and the professionalism of the media and the journalists. His policy intervention concluded that if professionalism is not a panacea that protects the public from perilous information, then, at the least, it is a prerequisite to accurate information. Abrahamian mentioned that "dangerous" information is something which, in one way or another, presents a threat to state, national, or public interests. He brought forth a number of examples regarding several intricacies of the resettlement of liberated territories, Armenian-Georgian relationships, and particularly the developments unfolding in Javakhk, intra-political propaganda, and Armenian-Turkish relations. Based on these, he presented those issues that confront the information sphere. “The key pressing issue is whether talking about this is merely providing information or coverage, or whether it is harming national security as well,” observed Abrahamian, who sees the answer to this in the professionalism of the news reporter and the editor.

During her policy intervention, Anush Sedrakian, aide to the National Assembly speaker, made an attempt to define political censorship. In her words, censorship is carried out in the modern world by means of new devices, particularly through withholding, delaying, devaluating, and spinning information. According to Sedrakian, in order to secure desirable censorship, the discussion of facts must be avoided, only commentaries made, a direction given to the topic, a certain character conveyed to the event, etc.

The formal interventions were followed by contributions by Nikolay Grigorian from the Emergency Management Committee; former deputy minister of defense Vahan Shirkhanian; Seyran Shahsuvarian from the Ministry of Defense; “Mediamax” News Agency chief editor, David Alaverdian; political analyst, Aghasi Yenokian; Caucasus Media Institute deputy director, Alexander Iskandarian; Edgar Hakobian of the “Heritage” Party; ACNIS director of research Stiopa Safarian; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2005, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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