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Freedom House: Belarus Is Still Not Free and Is Ranked Slightly Above the Worst Countries

2007 2007-01-22T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On January 17 Freedom House published its annual report on political and civil liberties worldwide. According to Freedom in the World 2007, the number of countries designated as Free has remained flat for nearly a decade.

The report is based on a review of the situation in the counties of the world in 2006.

“Our assessment points to a freedom stagnation that has developed in the last decade,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House, “and should lead to renewed policy attention to addressing the obstacles that are preventing further progress.”

Human rights organization Freedom House has been preparing annual reports about freedom worldwide since 1972.

Freedom in the World provides three broad category designation for each of the countries and territories included in the index: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free.

A Free country is one where there is broad scope for open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media.

A Partly Free country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and often a setting in which a single political party enjoys dominance despite the faзade of limited pluralism.

A Not Free country is one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied.

According to Freedom House, there are 8 countries in the world, where the state of freedom is “worst of the worst”. “The eight worst rated countries represent a narrow range of systems and cultures. Two—Cuba and North Korea—are one party Marxist-Leninist regimes. Two—Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—are Central Asian countries ruled by dictators with roots in the Soviet period. Libya is an Arab country under the sway of a secular dictatorship, while Sudan is under a leadership that has elements both of radical Islamism and of the traditional military junta. The remaining worst rated states are Burma, a tightly controlled military dictatorship, and Somalia, a failed state.

There are two worst rated territories: Tibet (under Chinese jurisdiction) and Chechnya, where an indigenous Islamic population is engaged in a brutal guerrilla war for independence from Russia.”

“An additional ten countries and territories received scores that were slightly above the worst ranked countries: Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Zimbabwe, and Western Sahara”.

The Freedom House points out in its report that “There was little significant change in the state of freedom in the former Soviet Union in 2006. As was the case in the previous year, the only relatively bright spots were Ukraine, which enjoys a Free rating, and Georgia, a Partly Free country. On the negative side, Russia continued to serve as a model for authoritarian-minded leaders in the region and elsewhere, and the country experienced a modest decline as a result of its crackdown on non-governmental organizations”.

“Although its relations with Belarus were briefly frayed due to a dispute over energy prices, Russia has otherwise gone out of its way to support the region’s autocrats and to oppose efforts by the United Nations and other bodies to condemn or impose sanctions on dictatorships with records of blatant human rights abuse”.

According to the Freedom in the World 2007, “The pushback against democracy, a phenomenon that has been gaining momentum for several years, emerged as a major obstacle to the spread of freedom in 2006. While there is nothing especially new about the suppression of democracy advocates by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, certain features of the current pushback distinguish it from past methods of political repression.

First, the targets of the pushback are less likely to be political parties or labor unions—the targets of the past—but, rather, independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), other civil society institutions, and the press. Second, regimes are generally less likely to employ the traditional techniques of extreme repression: military rule, mass arrests, assassinations, torture, and coups. Instead, governments often use legalistic tactics to put potential voices of opposition out of business, including the smothering of free media by regime-directed economic pressure (such as discouraging advertisers from doing business with independent newspaper and broadcast outlets), the denial of licenses to privately-owned television stations, unabashed state takeovers, and criminal slander charges against reporters who criticize the leadership. Another increasingly common tactic is use of the tax police to investigate and reinvestigate NGOs that are critical of government policies. Third, a number of regimes have recently adopted policies that make it difficult or impossible for domestic NGOs to receive support from foreign sources. This can be an important weapon given the lack of local sources of financial support in impoverished countries”.

According to the survey, the number of countries judged by Freedom in the World as Free in 2006 stood at 90, representing 47 percent of the global population. Fifty-eight countries qualified as Partly Free, with 30 percent of the world’s population. The survey finds that 45 countries are Not Free, representing 23 percent of the world’s inhabitants.

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