Estonia Enjoys Most Internet Freedom, Uzbekistan Among Those With the Least
Rahvusvahelised uudised 15 Nov 2016  EWR
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Freedom House Internet freedom report shows that internet freedom continues to decline, while digital activism grows throughout the world. 15 November 2016
This year's Freedom on the Net report, released yesterday, confirms the overall trends of declining internet freedoms over the past six consecutive years, and of growing digital activism.

Among the 65 countries studied in the report compiled by Freedom House, Estonia ranked the highest in terms of Internet freedom, obtaining six out of 100 points.

The score is composed of a rating of obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. In both of the latter categories Estonia scored three out of 35 points, while it remained one of the most connected countries in the world in terms of internet access.

Uzbekistan, on the other hand, ranked among the least free, scoring 79 points. The country has ranked low in previous ratings due to high levels of content surveillance and lengthy prison sentences for content critical of the government. According to the report, the main developments since last year have been the prohibition of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol services, including Skype and WhatsApp, and increased penalties “for poorly defined offenses against public order using mass media.”

Other countries from TOL’s coverage region that ranked free were Hungary, Georgia, and Armenia, all scoring under 30 points. Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia remained “not free,” the latter losing three points of its final score for its continuous erosion of internet users’ rights.

Increased access to user data and closer surveillance by authorities, as well as increased persecution of social media users were registered in all three countries, while Russia also saw an increase in physical violence against social media users.

While internet freedom declined in Azerbaijan and Ukraine, the two countries remained, along with Kyrgyzstan, partially free.

Along with growing restrictions, the report documents an increase in the impact and scale of digital activism across various countries, stating that, in about two thirds of those examined, online tools had helped reach tangible outcomes. One of the examples mentioned is Kyrgyzstan's #120Кресел (120Chairs) campaign on Twitter that forced lawmakers to abandon a plan to spend $40,000 on chairs to replace the ones purchased five years earlier.

• The report on internet freedom excludes most Central and Eastern European countries, which were not assessed.

• The methodology of the report includes 21 questions and 100 sub-questions. Points for questions in categories and subcategories are added up to make up the final score that determines the freedom rating. The higher the final score is, the least free a country is.

• The current internet freedom scores largely correspond to the press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, where Estonia scored the highest among the countries examined, while Uzbekistan along with Azerbaijan scored the lowest.

(Compiled by Liga Rudzite)
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