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Freedom House Laments Eurasian Declines, 'Return Of Iron Fist' In Russia

Freedom House says Russian President Vladimir Putin "heaped contempt on the values of open societies" -- restricting public demonstrations, limiting the work of civil society, and inhibiting free expression.
Freedom House says Russian President Vladimir Putin "heaped contempt on the values of open societies" -- restricting public demonstrations, limiting the work of civil society, and inhibiting free expression.
By Richard Solash
The non-Baltic former Soviet Union now rivals the Middle East as one of the most politically and socially repressive regions in the world, according to the latest edition of "Freedom in the World," the annual report compiled by U.S.-based rights watchdog Freedom House.

The Freedom House report evaluates the civil rights and political liberties of 195 countries during 2012.

"We have found that in Eurasia, the performance -- especially on political rights indicators -- is the worst in the world," says Arch Puddington, Freedom House's vice president for research. "[It's] worse than in the Middle East, and this is something new."

According to the report, the "return of the iron fist in Russia" set the tone for the entire region.

It says Russian President Vladimir Putin "heaped contempt on the values of open societies" last year, restricting public demonstrations, limiting the work of civil society, and inhibiting free expression in print and online.

The report also highlights Moscow's decision to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country, but also criticizes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for "utterly fail[ing] to offer a credible response."

Abysmal Rights Records

Ukraine's ratings slumped for the second consecutive year, in part due to what many in the West see as the politically motivated imprisonment of opposition leaders.

Tajikistan's civil liberties rating declined in the wake of last summer's military operation in Gorno-Badakhshan Province, which was accompanied by extrajudicial killings and media repression.

Ukrainian opposition figure Yuriy Lutsenko, a forrmer interior minister, was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to four years in jail in 2012 in a trial denounced by supporters as politically motivated.
Ukrainian opposition figure Yuriy Lutsenko, a forrmer interior minister, was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to four years in jail in 2012 in a trial denounced by supporters as politically motivated.

Freedom House said authorities in Kazakhstan last year ramped up their crackdown on opposition publications and social media in the wake of the deadly 2011 clashes in Zhanaozen.

Both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan fared only slightly better than Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, whose abysmal rights records kept them at the very bottom of Freedom House's list, alongside Syria, Somalia, and North Korea.

"The only bright spots [in the Eurasian region], really, are Georgia, which improved a bit; Armenia, which improved a bit; and Moldova," Puddington says. "Otherwise, Eurasia is one massive sea of not-free countries."

The region's worsening rights record was among several trends that made 2012 a "complicated" year for freedom, Puddington says.

Dramatic Advances

For the seventh consecutive year, more countries (28) registered declines in measures of freedom than gains (16). At the same time, the number of countries classified as "free" increased slightly to 90.

The report said the Middle East/North Africa region was the site of some of the most dramatic advances in freedom last year, with Tunisia consolidating its Arab Spring gains and Libya progressing from "not free" to "partly free" status -- an improvement that Puddington says seemed "unthinkable" just a few years ago.

Yet Freedom House also said that gains there were "threatened by opposition from governments, security forces, ruling families, or religiously based political factions."

The Muslim Brotherhood's questionable commitment to democracy in Egypt and declines in freedom throughout the Persian Gulf were cited as cause for concern.

Other trends highlighted include an increase in Muslim-on-Muslim violence, which Freedom House said has reached "horrifying levels" in Pakistan and remains rife in Iraq.

The report also sounded the alarm on civil liberties at risk in Turkey, the crackdown on dissent in China, the continued repression of bloggers and minorities in Iran, and the "profound aversion" of rising global powers Brazil, India, and South Africa to condemn rights abuses in other developing countries.

Overall, 43 percent of the global population was found to live in "free" societies and 23 percent in "partly free" societies. Thirty-four percent of the world's people live in countries rated "not free."
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Comments
     
by: Alex from: LA
January 16, 2013 08:04
BIASED, Turkey is not free, there should be a section for it here, since it's in NATO and ally, it's not...

by: American Troll
January 16, 2013 11:56
Chasing the mirage of a free society east of the Bug is a fool's errand. All we can and should do is keep the doors open to the few willing to leave. Otherwise, let Eurasia die with dignity. Their demographics give them until mid-century before the multi-billionaires flee to greener pastures, leaving empty countryside and urban jungles to become wise old China's responsibility. Eurasians are already in no position to hurt anyone but each other, as evidenced daily in the Caucasus. Europe still harbors old grudges against Moscow for past crimes (Europeans never forget, a fact which only intensifies moving further east), but war--hot or cold--is no longer a useful analogy for handling Eurasia.

Instead, think in terms of hospice care. Keep the patient comfortable, keep change and stress to a minimum, avoid exciting or angering him (yes, NATO, I mean your schoolgirl crush on the tie-muncher), and give any palliative aid available, including letting him binge on booze and drugs no matter how much it destroys what's left of his wrecked body. Soon the pain will be over, and we can remember the poetry and the cosmonauts and the little nesting dolls and whatnot.

Yes, it's a shame for anyone with fantasies of free speech and rule of law somewhere east of the Bug, but they raised those flags back in '91, and too few saluted. Apparently, the West broke a solemn vow to to deliver 140 million single-serving boxes of democracy, freedom, capitalism, and prosperity to every home in Russia. When we broke that promise, they threw a tantrum and handed their country over to a corrupt drunk, and that's somehow our fault (it's complicated). They're objectively happier now, freed from the responsibility of self-rule, and can imagine no other way. As long as the handful of unhappy misfits are allowed to leave for the West (to be welcomed as brethren, assets, even heroes), that's objectively best for everyone.

So don't waste another dime of funds or bit of bandwidth on a progressive Eurasia. It will never happen for one simple reason: They don't want it.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: East of Western Eden
January 16, 2013 14:09
Aah,dear American,you dont need to put a troll after your name,American includes a troll,too,so just put a Sh before the Am,.thank you! The proverb goes `Servire sibi maxium servium est`,which means westerners are the biggest and best slaves in the world today and your self-serving post just proves that.Yes,Trolly,its closing time for the gardens of the west,but the fiery furnace doors will always be open for 2 faced demagogue trolls.And there is now cure for conceited upstarts like yours truly Shamerican WASP!!!

by: Ash from: UK
January 16, 2013 12:32
Absolute rubbish - very biased and full of clichéd praises for pro-US regimes. And Russia - as bad as things are there - is no away near as bad as China or Saudi Arabia (another US ally for democracy). So this "ranking" is utter nonsense and people can see right through it. Definitely the cold war-style reports in 21st century look dumb and foolish!
In Response

by: Ilya
January 16, 2013 13:29
China and Saudi Arabia are both ranked 'Not Free'. Try reading before you comment.
In Response

by: Ash from: UK
January 16, 2013 16:27
Well duh?!?!.............all I'm saying is that trusting a fox to assess the wellfare of chickens doesn't work in the 21st century!
In Response

by: Ilya
January 17, 2013 01:41
So the 'pro-US regime' of Saudi Arabia is ranked Not Free but the report is still 'very biased and full of clichéd praises for pro-US regimes'?

by: Jack from: US
January 16, 2013 13:15
RFE/RL keeps reminding readers it is nothing else but a CIA propaganda outlet.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
January 16, 2013 18:26
I thought that was your job.

by: wolodymyr from: usa
January 16, 2013 22:59
In my previous appeal to west " Dont feed the fallen giant " If so he will revive again and will continue in his world expansion and suppression of smaller nations. This is a fact that Moscow is very clever and knows how to play the game with the west. They are experts in propaganda and subversions. It is too bad that many people in the world don't recognize this. Unfortunately there are many turn coats in their occupied countries by Moscow regime continue to work agains their own people. One of this typical countries right now is Ukraine. People wake up and do something about this.Why those turn coats blast the USA and yet every one wants to come here ?
In Response

by: Jack from: US
January 17, 2013 00:07
it is interesting to note that most Ukrainians in US and Canada seem to know better what is best for the Ukraine, yet none of them wants to go back to the Ukraine and make it "bester".
Under pro-Western orange revolutionaries the Ukraine has descended to the honorable status of third-world country existing on Russian handovers and endlessly aspiring to join NATO and EU to get even more bankrupt
In Response

by: Ilya
January 17, 2013 07:15
It's hardly interesting that people prefer to live in a free and developed country. It is a lot more interesting to note that you do not want to move back to Russia despite all your praise for Putin and anti-US ranting.
In Response

by: Alex from: LA
January 17, 2013 07:38
I see tyranny where there is tyranny no matter who does it my own people or country men, or others. The way wolodymyr describes it he sees it when it done on to him/his people, but when it's for they benefit he sees, ohh wait he is no looking...

by: Jack from: US
January 17, 2013 14:41
US federal government is a criminal syndicate which destroys lives of people not just in Syria or Libya but the lives of Americans as well, by thrashing Christian values, by stealing trillions of dollars from American people and handing them over to Wall Street crooks under various "bailout" schemes, and wasting them abroad to prop up anti-Christian Muslim fundamentalist regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar, Kosovo, etc, etc.

by: john from: canada
January 18, 2013 02:58
Putin's cunning political and economic initiative to turn towards Eurasia and away from the West is a crafty move designed to put Russia in the drivers seat to effectively control Eurasia through political and economic levers, as well as to deeply influence Europe through resource levers. In effect, Putinist Russia doesn't want to have its human rights ranked according to Western standards, but rather by Eurasian, or "sovereignist" standards.

After more than a decade of talking about reducing corruption, Putinist Russia is hardly more "clean" now, and no better than Kazakhstan, but worse than China.

by: Ben
January 18, 2013 09:37
Why BBG`great mashine of broadcasting and propaganda conceals behind Freedom House and different anonimous "reports"? Why RFERL create blogs on the ex-Soviet Eurasia ,while Svoboda is so shy about the problem that it demands commentators` registration?

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