For the first time in the history of the Republic of Armenia from March 2 to 20th, 2008 internet usage was restricted during the state of emergency. After declaration of state of emergency on March 1 evening, National Security Service (NSS) started actions to restrict internet usage. This was aimed at imposing limitations on media officially. In contrary to traditional limitations of media, filtration of web sites was done without public awareness, and with legal violations.
Schedule of internet limitation
On March 2, at about 23:00 o’clock the providers (according to our data given by NSS) started to block a number of web sites of Armenian media and opposition organizations for Armenian visitors.
The following web sites were blocked:
During the first days by unknown reasons www.panorama.am and www.regnum.ru web sites disappeared, but later they were working without any problem. (It is worth to mentionthat according to some opinions given in several blogs and forums, these two sites were blocked too).
During the first two days the filtration was done in a chaotic manner, different providers blocked different web sites.
On March 3 Armenian Internet Union (AIU) started blocking the domains. So the websites of .am domain became inaccessible not only for the people in Armenia. The only opportunity to have an access to those sites was to use IP address, for example www.a1plus.am 126.96.36.199.
As those sites were not updated by the will of their moderators during the state of emergency, these steps were taken by NSS probably to block access of visitors from abroad to archived materials. Prior member of the board of Internet Union David Sandukhchyan informed us that at first period Board of Internet Union was not aware of these activities.
On March 4 opposition http://infoarmenia.org site was registered and operated, which was not blocked during the whole period of the state of emergency. This shows that restrictions were done by non-specialists who didn’t monitor information field in reality.
On March 5 www.youtube.com web site was blocked, as the opposition had started to put video-clips about March 1events. As this time authorities started to filtrate non-Armenian site, this action was responded abroad. In blogs and forums information was disseminated that ISOC (International Internet Union) had applied to AIU stating that it breaches its responsibilities and maybe deprived of international membership. As a result, Armenian organization would be deprived of a right to be registered in .am domain.
The same day the public started to take practical means to find ways of getting out from the situation of internet restriction. A blog http://azathayastan.googlepages.com/ was opened, where materials from blocked web sites of “Armenia Today” and “Azatutyun” radio stations were put. “Azatutyun” radio station put its materials at a new address http://azatutyun.eu/.
Several providers closed Russian Regnum.ru web site temporarily (web.am, netsys were checked).
During this period different technical means were spread among internet users that give an opportunity to visit blocked sites (anonymizers, external proxies).
On March 8 AIU informed the public that it had deprived a number of web sites from their domain names (the announcement was posted on the web site of the organization).
On March 9 records of “Azatutyun” radio station were put on a separate web site http://www.armenica.org/radio/.
On March 19 http://xosqi-azatutyun.livejournal.com/ blog was blocked, where Armenians from abroad put information from the web sites that couldn’t be opened in Armenia. During the investigation of the blogs it was revealed that the ban was imposed only by XTER.net provider.
On March 21 restrictions were removed. During the first part of the day the web site of Web.am provider that secures hosting of “Haykakan Jamanak” newspaper, was installed on the website of the paper.
In general, we can conclude that internet restrictions through the providers were not able to solve issues concerning censorship, as the society found ways of escaping the filtration. Deprivation of the web site domains by AIU was more impressive. But these actions violated both RA legislation and international norms.
In particular, internet restrictions contradicted RA Constitution, which states that limitations imposed during the state of emergency should be regulated by the law. The current law does not define this issue clearly. What refers to restrictions of the domains of the web sites, this time contract law was violated, as the owners were not notified about it.