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

Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

by Arch Puddington and Morgan Huston*

The Reverend Leon H. Sullivan is remembered today as one of the most respected leaders of the American civil rights movement. For many decades, he served as pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, a northern city with a reputation for hostility to racial change. From early on, Sullivan identified lack of economic opportunity as a crucial element of racial inequality. Thus among his first campaigns was an economic boycott directed at major corporations in Philadelphia that refused to interview young black job applicants. “Selective patronage,” Sullivan called it.

The news that the government of Ecuador granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has quite properly triggered numerous commentaries on the irony—or better yet, hypocrisy—of Assange seeking help from Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, one of the world’s leading adversaries of press freedom. Assange made his bid for asylum after the British authorities agreed to deport him to Sweden, where he has been charged with sexually assaulting two women.

We've included in this blog post a shortened version of the Ecuador chapter from Freedom of the Press 2012, which covers the year 2011.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press.

A version of this commentary was initially published in the San Diego Union Tribune on August 10:

Freedom of the press is one of the pillars of democracy, but an unrestricted media is no longer a reality south of our border. In Mexico, journalists increasingly have to decide between ignoring the violent drug cartels altogether, or putting their safety and that of their families at risk. It is a choice no reporter would envy and none should be required to make.

The final results of the London Olympics are in, and those who root for democracy in other contexts can take pride in the outcome. Nearly two-thirds of the total medals—and of gold medals—were won by countries that are designated as Free in Freedom in the World. Countries designated as Not Free grabbed slightly more than a quarter of all medals and around 30 percent of gold medals.

A recent study conducted by Freedom House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors evaluated a comprehensive range of mobile technologies—from smartphone devices including iPhone, Nokia, and Droid, to the applications and security protocols that are installed on them—to determine how secure one can really be on a mobile phone. The purpose of the effort was to assess the dangers of using mobile phones in countries where privacy rights are not respected, and where the rule of law and due process are faulty or nonexistent. Mobile phones, rather than internet-enabled computers, are often the communications method of choice in these countries, which makes them a top priority for government surveillance. The findings of the study were quite worrying.

In this two-part interview, Nancy Okail, the director of Freedom House’s Egypt office, discusses the state of Egypt’s transition to democracy in the wake of parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year.

In this two-part interview, Nancy Okail, the director of Freedom House’s Egypt office, discusses the state of Egypt’s transition to democracy in the wake of parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year.

A few months ago, Freedom at Issue published a post entitled “The Great China Exception.” The article pointed out that China had succeeded in evading serious and comprehensive condemnation for acts of repression that, if committed by other governments, would provoke global opprobrium. It noted, “The separate category that China has carved out for itself goes beyond the usual double standard that has historically been applied to “progressive” dictatorships—to Cuba, or Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, for example. Instead there is a kind of stand-alone China Exception, under which repression and autocracy are quietly acknowledged but actual objections are seldom voiced.

 

By: S. Adam Cardais, Guest Blogger

On July 25, 2011, Kosovo police deployed north from Pristina and over the Ibar River to commandeer two checkpoints at the Serbian border in connection with a customs dispute with Belgrade. But the dispute was just a pretext. Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo was after much more: authority over the northern, Serb-majority portion of his country, where Pristina has had little control since the end of the 1998–99 conflict.

Photo: Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki

The depraved slaughter of civilians in Syria, which began with sniper fire on peaceful demonstrators and later degenerated into bombings of residential areas and execution-style killings of women and children, masks a darker truth.  While the violence of the current crackdown distinguishes Syria today, it emerges from decades of brutal dictatorship, and equally brutal dictatorships are alive and well across the globe.  They tend to get noticed only when particularly gross abuses take place or they escape attention almost entirely.  For close to one-fourth of the world’s population, intense repression has become routine.

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