Internet Censorship Commission May Be Established In Armenia

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

It has become a tradition for the Armenian government to address issues related to internet freedom at the end of the year when people are focused on finishing their work and reports.

This time, the government session on December 21 quickly approved a draft, which was included in the agenda as a non-reportable matter (see point 61).

The project is quite extensive. It involves approving draft laws that amend the Law on Gambling Games, Internet Gambling Games, and Casinos. These amendments also include changes to the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Lotteries and the Code of the Republic of Armenia on Administrative Offenses.

This decision pertains to a grave and concerning issue, which is the destruction of numerous lives and families due to gambling. It is a positive step that the government is taking steps to impose restrictions and establish an atmosphere of responsible betting to prevent individuals from losing everything. However, there is one measure that will inevitably result in significant adverse consequences, affecting various aspects of society.

The Armenian government will implement a system that combines processes and technical solutions to block unlicensed internet gambling and similar platforms.

What are the dangers?

a. In Armenia, a commission will be established with the power to block websites legally. Currently, no law in Armenia permits blocking any platform, service, or application on the internet; this means that blocking will become a legal practice.

b. Any system designed to impose limits on certain activities tends to expand its reach over time. For instance, if you block certain anti-social websites, it is likely that you’ll also want to block others. Gradually, the system may turn into an agency for censorship. It’s worth noting that many people desire censorship in various sectors of society and the government. Consequently, this gradual transformation can occur quickly, within a year or two. Once the mechanism for censorship is established, it becomes very difficult to reverse it.

c. Implementing the system will increase the internet connection cost for users because internet providers will need to purchase expensive equipment to block websites as per the regulations. Moreover, the existing two-hundred-plus providers may face hefty fines if they fail to block websites after receiving three warnings. The fine amount will be three million drams for each unblocked website. To avoid such penalties, providers will have to spend considerable sums, leading to increased internet connection costs for users.

d. The downside is that the new regulations will have little impact on serious gamblers. These individuals have already found ways to overcome financial restrictions and use foreign bank cards. They will likely find a way to bypass the new limitations, for instance, by installing basic VPNs.

e. As a result, we will have expensive internet connections and a designated state censorship commission, resulting in yet another non-working law.

f. One could continue, but it is important to note that legal regulation should be the last, not the initial step in solving many issues.

Samvel Martirosyan 

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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