On December 2, international human rights organization Freedom House published its fifth annual report “Freedom on the Net” in 2013-2014.
The Freedom House comprehensive study covered developments in 65 countries that occurred between May 1, 2013 and May 31, 2014. The level of Internet freedom – obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights – were evaluated on the scale from 0 to 100 points, where 0 is the best score and 100 is the worst. Countries scoring between 0 to 30 points were regarded as having a “Free” Internet and digital media environment; 31 to 60, “Partly Free”; and 61 to 100, “Not Free”.
As a result of increased government control over the online sphere, 36 of the 65 countries assessed have experienced a negative trajectory in Internet freedom since May 2013, Freedom House stressed.
According to Freedom House data, in 2013-2014 Armenia scored 28 points and thus became a country with free Internet again (in 2012-2013 the country scored 29 points). The difference of one point is caused by the improved indicator in the category “obstacles to access” – 7 points, while evaluation of the categories “limits on content” (9) and “violations of user rights” (12) did not change.
The chapter of the report on Armenia provides details on technical parameters, legislation, activities of Internet providers and other elements that influence freedom on Armenian Net.
As Freedom House noted, during the studied period, in Armenia there were no cases of blocking social media, political or social content and no bloggers arrest. Internet access in Armenia has increased, particularly in the past few years. According to the International Telecommunication Union, the Internet penetration rate in Armenia stood at 46% in 2013, compared with 39% in 2012 and just 6.2% in 2008.
“Armenian Internet users enjoy access to Internet resources without limitation, including peer-to-peer networks, voice and instant messaging services such as Skype and Google Talk, and popular social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Odnoklassniki”, Freedom House stated.
However, as Freedom House pointed out, two Armenian journalists (Kima Yeghiazarian, from “Hayots Ashkhar” daily, and Armen Dulyan, from “Shant” TV company) were fired from their jobs for Facebook posts: “In both cases, the journalists expressed personal opinions that did not correspond with the policy of the media outlet that they represented. Kima Yeghiazarian criticized the government, and “Hayots Ashkhar” is considered to be pro-governmental newspaper. Armen Dulyan criticized the Russian television media and made parallels with Armenian media, characterizing the representatives of both sides as “primitive”. “Shant” TV issued a statement (…), saying that future collaboration with commentator Armen Dulyan could not be considered acceptable, since he displayed a “disrespectful attitude” toward the TV station.” “However, aside from these two incidents, the behavior of journalists on social media is generally not regulated in Armenian media”, Freedom House noted.
Of the other Eastern Partnership countries only Georgia was also regarded as a country with free Internet (26 points). Ukraine (33) and Azerbaijan (55) were assessed by Freedom House as countries with partly free Internet, while Belarus (62) – as not free. Moldova was not a part of Freedom House research.