On December 4, 2014 Freedom House published report on internet freedom, assessing internet access, censorship, and internet user rights in 65 countries around the world. According to the released measures, Georgia as in 2013 obtained 26 scores out of 100 and consequently, was assessed as “Free” in terms of internet freedom.
It is noteworthy, that IDFI (Institute for Development of Freedom of Information) representative was invited to join the team of Freedom on the Net and as a result, Teona Turashvili, analyst from IDFI was involved in the assessment of internet freedom in Georgia and preparation of the country report.
The report on Georgia especially highlights several improvements in this field: introduction of new rules for the nomination of candidates to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and establishment of a new online governmental portal enabling citizens to make requests for public information. However, at the same time it is reported that internet users in Georgia still encounter several hindrances, such as inadequate infrastructure and low speed of internet, while accessing the internet.
Apart from this, in terms of obstacles to internet access, issues of distribution of internet users among several internet service providers (ISPs), usage of social networks and importance of long-term state strategy for development of internet infrastructure are discussed. In particular, based on the research, “competition on the internet market is quite low”, since “two ISPs control more than two-thirds of the market” (wired internet market). Similarly, the mobile internet market is also dominated by two main providers. With regard to state general approach to the internet, it is stressed that Georgian government lacks a comprehensive strategy with clearly defined vision for development of this filed in Georgia. However, at the same time the report touches on the creation of “e-Gerogia” strategic document for the years of 2014-2018.
Regarding limits on content it is mentioned that no evidence of online content being blocked was witnessed in Georgia in 2013–2014. As for censorship, the report claims that “there are no laws that specifically govern the internet, require online censorship. There are also no blacklists or other registers of websites and online resources that should be blocked.” However, research talks about existence of voluntary and self-censorship cases among Georgian users (e.g. journalists, civil servants). Additionally, even though there is no systematic or pervasive government manipulation of online content, it is argued that several cases of deleting users’ comments on several official governmental Facebook pages were observed.
In terms of violation of users’ right, no cases of charges against online users for libel or other internet activities were witnesses over the past year. The report covers establishment of new institutions addressing protection of users’ rights: Personal Data Protection Inspector and Public Defender for Consumer Rights under the GNCC. Besides, the report period includes activities of a campaign by local NGOs “This Affects You Too” which is advocating legislative amendments to limit the infringement upon private life and abuse of power by entities carrying out secret investigative actions.
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