Internet freedom in Armenia declined significantly as a result of restrictions on the free flow of information the government adopted during the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, The Freedom House said in its latest report “Freedom on the Net 2021.“
The survey gives countries a score out of 100 for the level of internet freedom enjoyed by citizens, including the extent to which they face restrictions on the content they can access.Other factors include whether pro-government trolls seek to manipulate online debates.
According to the US-based think tank, the implementation of martial law in late September 2020 placed broad restrictions on the media’s ability to report on the fighting, including by banning speech deemed to endanger national security, permitting authorities to demand content removal, and mandating fines for noncompliance. “A number of Turkish and Azerbaijani websites with .az and .tr domains were inaccessible for several weeks. Users also reported problems accessing TikTok. Prominent news sites also faced technical attacks, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, leaving many of them temporarily inaccessible during the conflict. In a positive move, a measure that had required telecommunications companies to provide authorities with subscriber metadata in order to facilitate contact tracing, adopted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was lifted in September 2020 alongside a virus-related state of emergency,” said the document.
It is noted that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan pledged to deal with long-standing problems including systemic corruption, opaque policymaking, a flawed electoral system, and weak rule of law. However, despite the government’s reformist stance, concerns about political interference in the judiciary and hostile rhetoric toward the media from government officials persist.
Iceland topped the ranking, followed by Estonia and Costa Rica, the world’s first country to declare internet access a human right. Armenia is ranked free in the report scoring 71 out of 100.