Georgia’s Internet is generally free from government censorship, the newly published Transparency International Georgia’s report says. Last year, there was not a single case reported of websites blockages; nor were any bloggers or other online activists questioned arrested for their online activities, as it often happens in the neighboring countries.
The report published on 5 February coincides with Freedom House 2012 data that also declared the Georgian online sphere to be free, a big step up from 2011, when the country occupied a place among other partly free countries. Back in 2011, several torrent websites were blocked due to the Intellectual property infringement. Those websites uploaded an illegal version of the Hollywood drama “5 Days of War”- a movie depicting the Georgian- Russian war in 2008.
Nevertheless, what remains the problem now is the ambiguity of ownership of several Internet service and telecommunication providers Transparency International report suggests. All the large telecommunication companies are said to be registered offshore in the British Virgin Islands and it is often hard to identify who stands behind the companies.
Moreover, head of one of the telecommunication company anonymously told Transparency International that several departments in the Interior Ministry have direct access to their technological infrastructure, LIberali writes. Transparency International urges new Georgian government to take effective steps in preventing illegal monitoring of the citizen’s communications. Also, the organization calls for disclosing the owners of the companies.
On the bright side, according to the survey, contrary to TV broadcasters, many of which are financed by political figures, online media in Georgia is characterized by a high degree of independence. The editors of online portals say they see the Internet market as free and easy for new players to penetrate. Nevertheless, a significant challenge is said to be a small advertising market. Most of the sites employ a monthly payment system for advertisement instead of basing the compensation on the number of views. The majority of online news sites are dependent on international donor support.