Turkey, Ukraine and Russia were among the worst performers in this year’s “Freedom on the Net” report by US-based think-tank Freedom House – a survey that measures levels of internet freedom in different countries worldwide.
The report awards countries a score from 1-100, with high numbers indicating low levels of freedom. Ukraine’s score increase of four was the joint second-worst, alongside France. Turkey’s score increased by three, while Russia’s increased by two.
Ukraine, Turkey and Russia’s overall freedom scores were 37, 58 and 62, respectively.
Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region was the main factor in the ratings decreases for the two nations. Ukraine “featured more prosecutions for content that was critical of the government’s policies”, while “increased violence from pro-Russian paramilitary groups against users who posted pro-Ukraine content in the eastern regions” was also a driver behind the scores.
Russia’s passing of a law in April 2014 requiring ISPs to install surveillance apparatus used to intercept and monitor ICT data also negatively affected its score.
The deterioration of Turkey’s freedom rating follows a trend of an increasingly draconian approach to civil rights in Southeast Europe’s biggest economy. The report cited several key factors that have affected Turkey’s rating, such as the repeated blocking of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went as far as saying, without a hit of irony, that he is “increasingly against the internet every day”, in an official meeting in October last year.
An ongoing case concerning journalists from news website VICE also highlights the crackdown on individual freedoms in Turkey. Mohammed Rasool, an Iraqi fixer and translator for two British VICE reporters was arrested and charged with terror offences in early September for having encryption software on his computer.
Estonia’s score of seven was the second best in the entire report, only one point behind Iceland, which scored six.