Davtian’s office revealed his written appeal to the government in a statement released on Monday. It complained that the country has no legislation or government agency to tackle what it described as a growing spread of illicit online content.
“In the absence of such control, information platforms continue the unfettered spread of such content, distorting and abusing the democratic principle of freedom of speech,” read the statement. “By contrast, in a number of countries, including Germany, Russia and Georgia, the security of information distributed through online resources is regulated by legal acts.”
The Office of the Prosecutor-General gave the example of Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor which can restrict or block access to websites refusing to remove unwanted content. It also argued that a German government agency is empowered to slap massive fines on Internet platforms disseminating illegal material such as racing or other hate speech.
Some Armenian civil rights activists expressed concern over Davtian’s initiative, saying that it could lead to unjustified curbs on free speech and Armenians’ access to the Internet, which has been practically unrestricted to date.
Shushan Doydoyan, who leads the Yerevan-based Center for Freedom of Information, said Davtian’s reference to Roskomnadzor is particularly worrying because the Russian agency is notorious for media censorship.
“In my view, such initiatives are not the prosecutors’ business,” Doydoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
According to the prosecutors’ statement, Davtian stressed that the proposed regulation of online content would not restrict Armenians’ “constitutional right to freely express opinions.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government has not yet publicly reacted to the appeal from the chief prosecutor who will complete his six-year term in office on September 15.
In a joint declaration issued after their talks held outside Moscow in April, Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to step up Russian-Armenian “cooperation on international information security.”
“The parties expressed concern about the growing trend of using modern information and communication technologies to commit illegal and harmful actions, interfere in the internal affairs of states and undermine their sovereignty,” said the declaration.