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The Freedom of Speech and & Assembly indicator measures EaP countries’ Freedom of expression, Freedom of association and Freedom of peaceful assembly combining three external indicators Score Bertelsmann Transformation Index, Nations in Transit 2018 and Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018.


From the standpoint of ensuring freedom of assembly and association, no significant changes have been recorded during 2018. Although the constitutions of all six countries guarantees freedom of association and assembly, the practice varies significantly.

Ukraine is the best performer: freedoms of association and assembly have been widely respected since the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. Since then numerous peaceful gatherings took place throughout the country, and demonstrations organized by civil society activists have taken place on many occasions without problems and civil society organizations have faced no restrictions in their activities.

Belarus and Azerbaijan remain the worst performing countries, where authorities failed to respect the basic rights of their citizens to assemble freely and form associations with others. According to the to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, in 2018, authorities arbitrarily detained 29 journalists, including while covering Freedom Day protests.The opportunities for citizens to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly remain limited. Azerbaijan maintained the prohibition on unauthorised rallies in city centres, and the authorities continued to closely monitor participants at authorised rallies, launching various forms of oppression against them.[1] According to Human Rights Watch, the existing legislative framework makes it almost impossible for NGOs and independent groups to seek funding and carry out their work. A slight easing of the terms of regulations on international donor funding did not preclude the authorities from arbitrarily denying grant registrations. Due to the restrictions or freezing of NGOs’ bank accounts, at least one dozen human rights NGOs suspended their work or moved their operations abroad.[2]

While there were no violent crackdowns on peaceful assemblies in Armenia, there was a pattern of intimidation of civic and political groups to obstruct attendance at opposition rallies. In Moldova and Georgia, freedom of assembly and association was generally respected, although the authorities in both countries failed to provide comprehensive security to representatives of minority communities, pushing the organisers of demonstrations to hold the events in less public places.[3]

In 2018, in terms of Freedom of Speech and Assembly, no significant change was recorded. The latest, most significant improvement was registered in Belarus in 2015, when the procedures for obtaining permissions became relatively more relaxed after the release of all political prisoners in August 2015. As a rule, organizers and participants of unauthorized meetings are no longer sentenced to prison, but have to pay a fine. Prior to that, Ukraine registered a significant improvement in its score between 2014 and 2015 as international organisations noted significant improvements in the enjoyment of rights to peaceful assembly and association since the transition of power after the Revolution of Dignity of 2014.[1]

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[1] 27 Events of 2017, Belarus, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/belarus .

[2] Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2018: Azerbaijan Country Report, https://www.bti-project.org/en/reports/ country-reports/detail/itc/aze/.

[3]  Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2018: Moldova Country Report, https://www.bti-project.org/en/reports/country-reports/detail/itc/MDA/.

[1] Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2018: Ukraine Country


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