Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

May 2013

Jennifer Dunham
Zselyke Csaky

In the half decade since the beginning of the economic crisis, global press freedom has declined, and the EU has been no exception to this trend. Reporting on a new survey on press freedom, Jennifer Dunham and Zselyke Csaky find that Greece and Hungary have experienced large declines in press freedom in recent years, with Lithuania, Latvia and Spain also seeing falls. They write that the economic crisis has exacerbated deep-rooted problems across Europe’s media environments leading to a decline in print media circulation and diversity, as well as a greater concentration of media ownership.

Arch Puddington

This week’s announcement that the Guardian Council had disqualified Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as a candidate in the June 14 presidential election is an especially pointed reminder of the unique and uniquely preposterous election system devised by the Islamic Republic’s leaders to ensure their hold on power.

Nate Schenkkan

When Zayd Saidov announced in April that he and some other leading businessmen in Tajikistan were founding a political party, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid criticism of President Emomali Rahmon and adopt a mild, pragmatic tone.

As support for the human rights of LGBTI people expands globally, advocacy groups and individuals have faced pushback in the form of increased violence and stigmatization. Just last Friday in Russia, Vladislav Tornovoi was tortured and killed after coming out as gay. In Kuwait, authorities recently trumpeted the arrest of 215 gay men and lesbians. And in Uganda, the notorious Bahati Bill, which has teetered on the verge of passage in parliament, has now been reframed to outlaw the “promotion” of homosexuality. Today, on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Freedom House stands in solidarity with all human rights defenders, including those who identify as LGBTI, as we commit ourselves to the pursuit of a world in which human diversity is honored and valued, and human rights are enjoyed equally by everyone.

17 мая активисты-правозащитники и заинтересованные лица со всего мира вновь отмечают Международный день против гомофобии и трансфобии. Однако, в то время как осведомленность и поддержка прав человека для лесбиянок, геев, бисексуалов, транссексуалов и интерсексуалов (ЛГБТ) расширяются в глобальном масштабе, поддерживающие их организации и отдельные люди сталкиваются с неприятием в виде роста насилия и стигматизации во многих сферах жизни, часто приводящим к ужасным последствиям. В минувшую пятницу в России в г. Волгограде 23-летний Владислав Торновой был убит после жестоких пыток, как сообщалось, в связи с тем, что он рассказал друзьям, что он гей.

Bolivia’s expulsion of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) this month is a troubling development on its own, but when viewed in the context of similar actions by other governments, it raises questions about the future of American foreign assistance in the face of authoritarianism.

China’s media environment remains one of the world’s most restrictive.  As described in Freedom House’s recently released report on the state of global press freedom for the year 2012, the Chinese government’s press restrictions were complex, intricate, ruthless when necessary, and flexible when it suited the leadership’s purposes. At the same time, these controls were subject to pushback from ordinary citizens outraged at the suppression of information about critical events.

Leon Willems
Arch Puddington

Each year at this time, Freedom House, a Washington-based institute that specializes in research on global democracy, issues a report on the condition of press freedom around the world. The report’s findings for the past year make for disturbing reading. The number of countries that experienced a significant decline in media freedom outstripped the number that registered improvements. Even worse, trends for the past decade indicate a steady erosion in the ability of media to cover the most critical civic and political issues. The report’s most chilling conclusion: Only one in six people worldwide live in societies with a genuinely free press, the lowest percentage in over a decade.


To accompany today’s release of Freedom of the Press 2013, Freedom House created a special infographic, which highlights countries with notable developments during the new report’s coverage period.