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Grisha Balasanyan

47 Day Delay: Defense Ministry Rejects Hetq Information Request on War Dead/Missing

It took the Armenian Ministry of Defense 47 days to reject a Hetq request to provide information on the people killed and gone missing during last year’s Karabakh war.

Hetq sent the ministry a written request on June 7, requesting data on who, according to official Armenian sources, had been killed, buried, their nationality, their army rank, etc.

The ministry, in a July 22 letter, argued that such information contains state secrets and is covered by Armenia’s Freedom of Information Law and the Law on Personal Data Protection.

The ministry, upon receipt of Hetq’s request, initially replied that "there is a need for additional research to provide the information mentioned in the request. Accordingly. the answer to the inquiry will be provided in the terms defined by RA legislation.”

Then, a ministry staffer telephoned this journalist and asked a few questions about the request, promising to provide the information within a day or two.

The Ministry of Defense and other agencies have adopted a new strategy of "neutralizing" media inquiries. They request a 30-day response grace period, believing that the delay will push the matter to back burner, and then refuse to provide the information.

Here, we must note that we did not ask the Ministry of Defense for any personal information (names, date of birth, etc.).

It is therefore strange that digital data is considered personal data without specifying what the personal data is.

In addition, even if any of the data in the survey were considered personal, the ministry is required to provide the remaining information; that which is not considered “secret”.

This was the approach taken by the Armavir Provincial Government, which has provided information on casualties in the region according to communities.

The Ministry of Defense, in its press releases, and National Assembly MPs regularly circulate information on killed servicemen and the missing.

Given the ministry’s argument in its July 22 rejection, are we to assume that they are disclosing state secrets or providing distorted, inaccurate data?

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