Negative developments in Hungary and Ukraine are at the forefront of an antidemocratic trend in Central and Eastern Europe that raises serious questions about the durability of the European Union’s young democracies,
In a speech to America’s diplomats at the State Department on May 19, 2011, President Obama declared the United States’ commitment to pursue policies that promote and protect human rights around the world. These rights, he argued, include “free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders—whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.”
A year has passed since that much-lauded speech gave voice to a commitment that human rights advocates had long been pushing for. In that time, the president and his foreign affairs team have struggled with the difficult task of channeling the rhetoric, which rightfully places human rights and democratic governance at the top of America’s priority list, into meaningful policies.
Freedom House strongly condemns the conviction of 34 defendants accused of instigating riots in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, in December 2011. Based on trial observation and media reports, the proceedings were marred by credible allegations of torture that authorities refused to adequately investigate.
Freedom House is deeply concerned about comments made by the Azerbaijani government expressing open hostility toward independent journalists, as well as proposed amendments to laws that restrict access to information.
The current state of media freedom in Latin America was driven home in early May, when three journalists were murdered in Mexico within a week of World Press Freedom Day. This dramatic example underscores a larger trend identified by Freedom House in the recently released Freedom of the Press 2012 report, which noted that a range of negative developments over the past decade have left media freedom on the defensive in much of Central and South America.