Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The State of Freedom 2004 (The Post)

Yesterday Freedom House released its annual Freedom In The World report. Here is a round up of the world’s reactions.

Vladimir Putin was cited for maintaining Russia’s tradition of centralizing government control. Putin said, “I think my forebears would be proud that such an esteemed American institution has once again labeled the motherland as ‘not free.’” He said he will use Russia’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its position on the UN Commission on Human Rights to further his commitment to Russia’s foreign policy heritage. One of the first items on his agenda is to improve Russia’s relationship with other non-free countries like Iran. He said, “We really want those contracts to build nuclear reactors in Iran.” When asked about Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, Putin responded, “We have many Soviet-era warheads that are not currently in use, but they are not on the table, yet.”

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, while taking a break from signing the 1200 condolence letters he recently found in his inbox, has announced that he will be stepping down to run the Saudi prison system. Rumsfeld said we was appalled that the Saudi’s once again ranked among the worst of the worst when it comes to human rights and civil liberties. He said, “I think my commitment to effective prison management will be a major asset in the Saudis efforts to improve human rights.”

A UN spokesperson praised the Sudanese delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights for the fine work he has done to help promote human rights in the world and in Sudan, which ranked among the worst of the worst.

After hearing that it was again ranked “not free”, China announced that until it improved its record on human rights and civil liberties it was giving up its seat on the UN Security Council as well as withdrawing from the Commission on Human Rights. Cuba said it would follow China’s lead and would also give up its seat on Human Rights Commission. In a joint statement with China and North Korea, Castro said that all three countries realize that to prove their commitment to the workers of the world they must first treat their own citizens better. He then announced that once they have accomplished this the three nations were eyeing a small uninhabited atoll in the Pacific as the site of the next People’s Revolution.

In all seriousness, Freedom House did show reason for some optimism:

The 2004 survey data reveal positive, albeit modest, trends in the Middle East and North Africa. While no countries in the region changed status, small gains were registered in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Qatar. Egypt's civil liberties score improved because of greater civic activism, particularly by women's advocacy groups. Jordan's civil liberties score improved due to improvements in women's rights and press freedom. Morocco's civil liberties score increased after the country passed one of the most liberal family codes in the Arab world. And Qatar's score improved as a result of gains in academic freedom. Notably, there were no gains in political rights registered in the Middle East and North Africa.

Among the study's other findings:

Of the world's 192 states, 119 are electoral democracies (89 Free and 30 Partly Free), an increase of 2 since 2003. While these states are not all rated Free, all provide considerable political space and media access for opposition movements and allow for elections that meet minimum international standards of ballot secrecy and vote tabulation.

Over the last 15 years, the number of electoral democracies has risen from 69 out of 167 (41 percent) to 119 out of 192 (62 percent). On average during that time frame, an additional 3 states have adopted minimal standards for free and fair elections each year.

Freedom further consolidated in Central Europe. Five of the new EU countries—the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—achieved the highest possible survey rating: 1 for political rights and 1 for civil liberties.

Here’s to doing what we can to make next year’s report even better.


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