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Freedom House ranks Georgia’s Freedom on the Net status as “partly free”

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, April 20
Freedom House issued a report on Freedom on the Net, with a separate chapter dedicated to the situation in Georgia. The organization has ranked the country as “partly free” in terms of freedom on the net, however has noted that Georgia has improved in a couple of indicators, including “obstacles to access” and “limits on content.”

The report says that social networking sites, Facebook in particular, have gained in popularity in recent years “reportedly eclipsing news sites and general web portals.” According the authors of the Freedom House report Facebook serves “as an important platform for discussion and information exchange among the more liberal segments of Georgian society... Indeed, Facebook is now the most popular site on the Georgian internet. A number of bloggers and journalists use it to share or promote their content, gaining readers and starting discussions on current events,” the report reads.

However, the authors of the document drag the attention on one incident, which caused some concern among internet activists, when in April 2010 “the administrator of the Facebook group Against Nanukas Show, which was critical of the hostess of the talk show, alleged that he was threatened by unidentified state employees and forced to make the group inactive.”

The report says Government censorship “is not a major hindrance” to the internet freedom in Georgia as users can freely visit any website, upload any content and contact other users via forums, social networking sites and instant messaging services. “In fact, content is so accessible that numerous sites offer illegal material such as pirated software, music, and movies, and the government has not enacted appropriate legal measures to combat the problem. ISPs still own websites with a great deal of pirated material, but visits to such sites have decreased and given way to social networking, videosharing, blogging and news sites,” the document reads.

The report suggests that “inadequate revenues in the online news business, combined with a lack of technological knowledge, have hampered the expansion of traditional media outlets to the internet.” The authors of the report claim, most of the online media outlets face difficulties in attracting advertisers. “But the problem seems to be more acute for the sites that are critical of the government,” the report states “ some media owners reported instances in which advertisers decided to withdraw ads from websites after those outlets published news articles overly critical of the government or the ruling party,” it continues.

The Freedom House report concludes that “while cyber-attacks are not very common in Georgia, they do occur and are often related to political tension between Georgia and Russia.”