Freedom at Issue: Insights on the global struggle for democracy | Freedom House

Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

When the Obama administration sent its budget request to Congress this year, it featured a remarkable omission. The request for 2015 does not include language that has appeared for nearly 10 years, stating that U.S. democracy assistance will not be bound by the approval of foreign governments. This lapse threatens the interests—and potentially the lives—of people working to promote political freedom around the world.

The European Union has been dealt a series of jarring blows in recent months. Its attempts to forge closer ties with eastern neighbors helped trigger a massive crisis in Ukraine, and Russia continues to contest its influence across the region. In May, anti-EU parties made major gains in European Parliament elections. Yet because of the union’s democratic underpinnings, each of these apparent setbacks contains the seeds of future success.

The recent presidential elections in Egypt and Syria have demonstrated that even the worst dictators feel obliged to seek popular legitimacy through the symbols of democracy. But the elections they orchestrate are less a contest between rival candidates than a measurement of the leader’s control over the population.

The Egyptian government's case against pro-democracy NGOs, ending in the conviction of 43 people on June 4 last year, was intended as a warning that such activism would not be tolerated by the remnants of the Mubarak regime, which were intent on a comeback. That comeback is in full swing now.

In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on student-led prodemocracy protests in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese Communist Party’s multifaceted censorship apparatus has gone into overdrive to limit discussion of the events of that day and the following weeks.

In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese government has escalated its efforts to suppress any form of commemoration or discussion of the event in the media. But Beijing’s daily attempts to control the news extend far beyond this taboo topic, as an analysis of recent censorship directives reveals.

One of the leading forces in the 2005–06 prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy, Danish Muslim activist Ahmed Akkari, now regrets his role as agitator and reveals a larger, more deliberate, and more vicious conspiracy behind the crisis than previously known.

Prime Minister Milo Đukanović asserted late last year that Montenegro’s journalists enjoy “absolute freedom of expression.” Over the subsequent weeks, reporter Lidija Nikčević of the independent daily Dan was severely beaten with a bat, bombs struck the office (pictured) of another daily, Vijesti, as well as the home of one of its columnists, and arsonists torched one of the paper’s vehicles, marking the fifth such attack on Vijesti since 2011. This is only a sample of the unchecked aggression faced by independent journalists in Montenegro.

While the coup itself appeared deceptively simple, governing Thailand will be a more drawn out, complicated, and potentially bloody affair.

In the wake of Narendra Modi’s overwhelming victory in India’s recent elections, commentators have noted the many, daunting challenges facing the new prime minister of the world’s most populous democracy.