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20 December 2004 -- A U.S.-based organization that tracks the progress of political rights and civil liberties across the world said Russia has fallen to the status of "not free."

Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, pointed out a growing trend under President Vladimir Putin to "concentrate political authority, harass and intimidate the media, and politicize the country's law-enforcement system."

Windsor said that these moves mark a "dangerous" drift toward "authoritarianism" in Russia.

Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, Belarus, Armenia, and Lithuania also saw setbacks, while the organization found encouragement in democratic gains in Georgia and Ukraine.

Turkmenistan rated among the most repressive countries along with Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria.

Freedom House said the world saw increased freedom in 2004. Of the world's 192 countries, it judged 46 percent free, 26 percent not free, and the rest partly free.

(AP)
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