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Freedom House says telecommunications infrastructure in Georgia is weak

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, October 30
The Freedom House organisation has released the results of its June 2014 - May 2015 research about Internet access, censorship and the Internet users' rights, carried out in 65 countries, including Georgia.

According to the report, Georgia has improved its position by two points and received 24 points out of 100, in which lower scores denote better results.

“Amendments to Georgia’s legislation introduced a “two-key” system for authorizing wiretapping, which requires the Ministry of Internal Affairs to obtain permission from the Personal Data Protection Inspector, in addition to a court order, prior to conducting surveillance. However, this provision in the final amendments does not apply to Internet data, and maintains that the Ministry will have direct access to telecom servers, rather than requiring that they request the data from the telecom providers,” the report reads.

Freedom House noted that Internet access in Georgia continues to improve, as the government moves forward with plans to ensure access to high-speed Internet throughout the country by 2017, also the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) by activists for waging effective online campaigns has increased significantly, indicating the growing impact of Internet use for disseminating information and mobilizing people for a common cause.

“Restrictions on online content in Georgia have decreased over the past few years. There are no indications of censorship or content being blocked by the Georgian authorities or internet service providers (ISPs), and there are no recent cases of activists or reporters being questioned or arrested for their online activities,” the report reads.

Freedom House pointed out that high prices for services, inadequate infrastructure, and slow Internet speeds remain obstacles, particularly for those in rural areas or with low incomes.

According to the organization, the telecommunications infrastructure in Georgia is weak, and users may experience disconnections from the international Internet up to two or three times per month for a few minutes at a time, allowing them to access only Georgian websites.

However, the report underlines that civil rights, including the right to access information and freedom of expression, are guaranteed by the Georgian constitution and are generally respected in practice.