Press release September 1, 2021
Ukraine: Biden Should Focus on Human Rights and Democracy at Zelenskyy Meeting
Any effective response to Russia’s occupation of Donbas or its malign disinformation campaign must be rooted in upholding and strengthening democratic institutions.
On August 26th, Freedom House sent a letter to President Biden with recommendations for his meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. Today, Freedom House released the following statement:
“We applaud the Biden administration for its continued support of Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its democracy, and we urge President Biden to focus today’s meeting with President Zelenskyy on two key challenges: countering Russian disinformation campaigns using a rights-based approach, and protecting freedom of expression in Ukraine,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “While we understand the security challenges facing Ukraine, it is imperative that President Biden not let these issues dominate the agenda at the expense of human rights and democracy support. Any effective response to Russia’s occupation of Donbas or its malign disinformation campaign must be rooted in upholding and strengthening democratic institutions. Military support alone cannot hold against these national security threats. Only a strong, democratic Ukraine can be a sustainable and legitimate counter to Russia’s aggression.”
Freedom House urges President Biden and his administration to emphasize to President Zelenskyy the need to fight disinformation using a rights-based approach that protects, rather than undermines, freedom of expression. That way, Ukraine will become more resilient in the fight against disinformation; moreover, a strong democratic response to Russian disinformation protects not only Ukrainian security, but American security as well. Additionally, at this year’s Democracy Summit—which centers the key theme of promoting respect for human rights—we urge President Biden to ask President Zelenskyy to take a firm public stand on condemning hate and violence against vulnerable groups in Ukraine.
Democracies around the globe are under siege: backsliding in democratic countries is a major contributor to the current 15-year decline in global political rights and civil liberties as recorded by Freedom in the World. But the United States has a real chance to bolster democracy in Europe and beyond with its support of Ukraine. With its vibrant civil society and citizens’ increasingly vocal demands for democratic reform, Ukraine is in a unique position to demonstrate to the world the positive impact of democracy-building on the security and the well-being of its people.
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