Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 16:03 GMT

Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Armenia

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Armenia, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46e69181c.html [accessed 23 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Population: 3,072,000
  • Internet users: 60,000 (2002)
  • Average charge for 20 hours of connection: 35 euros
  • DAI*: 0.30
  • Situation**: middling

Armenia is one of the few countries in the sub-region where the Internet is not censored. But the government is slow to develop Internet activity and not many people have access. A law to regulate it has been passed that broadly respects freedom of expression despite several inconsistencies.

With only 60,000 users and about 3,500 websites registered under an ".am" domain-name, the Internet is not yet important in Armenia. The high price of connection is the main obstacle to its growth, with a private line costing nearly 50 euros a month. Line quality is also poor, slowing access to webpages.

The 15-year telecom monopoly granted to the Greek firm OTE in 1998 also slows progress because the company has not made the investment needed to improve access. Its charges to customers are unduly high and it demands an exorbitant price for renting access to other ISPs. Internet users pay the price for this lack of commercial competition. Access is also largely confined to the capital, where most cybercafés are.

Online media prevented from covering elections

No online media were accredited by the central elections commission to cover the presidential and parliamentary elections between February and May 2003. The commission decreed on 22 August 2002 that only media duly registered with the justice ministry could be accredited. Since websites were not at the time legally classed as media, none could register and thus qualify.

Legal situation

A media law passed on 13 December 2003 by parliament gave websites media status. The measure, more liberal than previous legislation, defined media very broadly, with even posters included as such. The Internet was exempted however from some requirements made of the traditional media, such as registering with the government.

The law seems similar at first sight to those passed in the sub-region's more repressive countries, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, but is not such a threat to freedom of expression. However it does contain some inconsistencies that might harm the growth of the Internet, including a requirement that online publications must provide the government with details of income and expenditure. This is seen locally as completely impractical and a heavy burden on website editors.

An online journalist threatened

John Hughes, editor of the online weekly Armenianow, informed military prosecutor Gagik Jhangirian in a 4 November 2003 letter that one of his journalists, Janna Alexanian, had received phone threats from the father of two soldiers murdered on 6 August in Vanadzor and about whom the journalist had written an article on 15 August. Their father accused her of defending the killers. Hughes said the complaint was in fact triggered by Alexanian writing that the soldiers' family was involved in petrol racketeering. The threats stopped soon after the letter was sent.

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* The DAI (Digital Access Index) has been devised by the International Telecommunications Union to measure the access of a country's inhabitants to information and communication technology. It ranges from 0 (none at all) to 1 (complete access).

** Assessment of the situation in each country (good, middling, difficult, serious) is based on murders, imprisonment or harassment of cyber-dissidents or journalists, censorship of news sites, existence of independent news sites, existence of independent ISPs and deliberately high connection charges.

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