News / USA

Report: Freedom Declined Worldwide in 2013

Report: Freedom on Decline Around the Worldi
X
January 23, 2014
The cause of freedom around the globe took another hit last year. Washington-based Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2014 report January 23, with the authors warning of serious setbacks in some of the world’s more influential countries. VOA’S Jeff Seldin has more.
TEXT SIZE - +
— The Washington-based group Freedom House said the cause of freedom around the globe took another hit in 2013, as the group released its Freedom in the World 2014 report Thursday. The authors warned of serious setbacks in some of the world’s more influential countries.
 
Perhaps nowhere was the fall from freedom more visible than in Egypt, where angry protests gave way to a military coup and a crackdown on dissent.
 
Freedom in the World 2014 report author Arch Puddington argued that in many ways, Egypt was not alone.
 
“We are at a time right now where the leaders of the authoritarian community are more self-assured and arrogant than they’ve been in the past and there’s a kind of a loose coalition, alliance of the repressive countries,” said Puddington.
 
Color revolutions

An anti-government protester rallies for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government in Sfax, 170 miles (270 km) southeast of Tunis, Tunisia, Sept. 26, 2013.An anti-government protester rallies for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government in Sfax, 170 miles (270 km) southeast of Tunis, Tunisia, Sept. 26, 2013.
x
An anti-government protester rallies for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government in Sfax, 170 miles (270 km) southeast of Tunis, Tunisia, Sept. 26, 2013.
An anti-government protester rallies for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government in Sfax, 170 miles (270 km) southeast of Tunis, Tunisia, Sept. 26, 2013.
Puddington expressed concern that today’s authoritarians have learned the lessons of the Soviet Union and of the so-called "color revolutions". As a result, modern autocrats are very averse to reforms of any kind; once started, they can create a momentum that is hard to stop. These leaders have also learned that permitting the opposition to freely protest on the streets puts their own leadership in jeopardy, and therefore work to marginalize both the opposition and civil society organizations.
 
The Freedom House report rated 195 countries and 14 territories based on political rights and civil liberties. It found the level of overall freedom had declined for the eighth consecutive year, with 60 percent of the world’s population - almost 4.3 billion people - living in countries that are only partly free or not free at all.
 
Global Freedom Status (Click to expand)Global Freedom Status (Click to expand)
x
Global Freedom Status (Click to expand)
Global Freedom Status (Click to expand)
“The political elites don’t always have to use violence. They don’t have to put people up against the wall, but they are still able to control politics and marginalize the political opposition,” explained Puddington. “This is the eighth straight year in which more countries have suffered a decline in freedom than have experienced improvements… What we’re also seeing is an inability for freedom to make any kind of serious breakthroughs in countries like Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela… where you have political leaderships that are smothering the opposition and controlling the press.”
 
Worst offenders

Almost no region fared worse than Eurasia, which saw increased persecution and media crackdowns in Russia and Ukraine. According to Freedom House, 78 percent of the region’s population lives in countries that are "not free.”
 
FILE - Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz.FILE - Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz.
x
FILE - Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz.
FILE - Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz.
In the Middle East, Syria ranked among the 10 worst – or least free countries – while 83 percent of the region’s total population also live in countries rated as "not free." 
 
In the Asia-Pacific, the report found China was even more intolerant in 2013. Overall, 43-percent of the region's population lives in countries rated as “not free."
 
In Africa, 35 percent of the region's population lives in countries rated as "not free."
  
​As for the United States, the country continues to rank among the freest in the world, but Freedom House said there is reason for Washington to be concerned.

Click on the highlighted areas to see individual country rankings:

 
David Kramer, the president of Freedom House, thinks less free countries abroad reduces opportunities for cooperation.
 
“When you have freedom on the decline that suggests you have fewer stable countries, fewer and less reliable partners,” said Kramer.
 
Democracy under duress

Freedom House said democracies, especially the U.S., also seem plagued by self-doubt, unable or unwilling to act, a condition creating adverse outcomes elsewhere in the world. The group cited the lack of progress in the Middle East as a prime example.
 
The Washington Institute’s David Schenker said surveys suggest U.S. citizens are more interested in internal affairs.
 
“The United States public is not at all interested in having a more, military involvement in the Middle East or even financial involvement or diplomatic involvement. We’ve seen that in the polling. They’re more focused on domestic matters,” said Schenker. “You still have advocates and activists and human rights defenders in many places around the world looking to the U.S. for leadership and they’re just not finding it the way they would like.”
 
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama, Jan. 16, 2014.FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama, Jan. 16, 2014.
x
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama, Jan. 16, 2014.
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama, Jan. 16, 2014.
While acknowledging the limits of U.S. power in the region, Schenker also pointed out that earlier rhetoric from the Obama administration regarding cooperation in the Middle East referred to the governments of the region, not their people. He claimed this approach has resulted in the U.S. becoming too passive and missing chances to promote democracy.
 
“When President Obama came in, his administration focused on the now infamous Cairo speech. He talked about mutual interests and mutual respect but he was talking about U.S. relations with governments, not with the peoples of the region, and so we saw a very hands-off approach, for example, on Egypt,” said Schenker.
 
Puddington also touched on the lack of concern from solidly democratic nations for those whose democracies are under pressure.
 
“What we seem to be seeing in the democracies is a lack of stalwartness in their support of democracies, democratic forces under duress and in their attitudes toward these large authoritarian countries where they seem to be primarily willing to make deals and to improve the diplomatic climate and to ignore the acts of oppression that are going on,” said Puddington.
 
That domestic focus leaves those seeking freedom wondering where to turn.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid