Armenia has moved from the list of countries with free internet to “the partly free list” and scored 32 points out of 100, as per the Freedom House report entitled Freedom on the Net 2017 .
Internet freedom declined in Armenia after users experienced temporary restrictions on Facebook, while online manipulation increased in the lead-up to parliamentary elections, the report says
According to the report, the lead-up to the parliamentary election saw unprecedented levels of manipulation online, with coordinated bots spreading misinformation and attempting to stifle independent reporting on Twitter.”
Around the same time, civil society figures received Google notifications that state-backed hackers were attempting to hack their accounts.
Though the government does not usually engage in blocking or filtering, Facebook was briefly restricted in July 2016 when armed opposition figures took over a police station in Yerevan, holding several police officers hostage. Mobilizing on social networks, thousands of citizens took to the streets to demonstrate against the government at the same time. Online journalists covering the events were violently dispersed by law enforcement.
Self-censorship on some issues improved during the coverage period. As tensions between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region simmered down following the April 2016 flare up in hostilities, social media users and online journalists faced less pressure to restrict their reporting on the conflict.
Overall, the internet remained relatively free, with gradual improvements in infrastructure and accessibility connecting more of the population. Activists regularly use social media as a tool to promote their causes, and opposition and independent media flourish online,” the report says.
Among the key developments last year the experts mention that journalists streaming live broadcasts during the July protests were targeted and violently obstructed by police.
As to Armenia’s neighbors, Georgia is the only country having free internet. Azerbaijan has partly free internet, while Turkey and Iran are listed among the countries having not free internet.
Freedom House determines the level of freedom on the Net with scores from 0 to 100, 0 meaning completely free internet. 65 countries were assessed according to three parameters: obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights.
Nearly half of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net 2017 experienced declines during the coverage period, while just 13 made gains, most of them minor.