20 January 2018, Saturday, 7:56

Freedom House: West should take leadership in struggle against dictators


Belarus has again been ranked among Not Free countries.

According to Freedom House's annual report, Belarus has the lowest possible rating of 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties, Radio Svaboda informs.

Only 90 of 195 countries in Freedom House's survey were called Free in 2012. 27 countries, including Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, showed decline, while 16 countries improved their rating. This is the seventh consecutive year that Freedom in the World has shown more declines than gains worldwide.

Of the 47 countries designated as Not Free, nine have been given the survey’s lowest possible rating of 7 for both political rights and civil liberties: Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. An additional 5 countries and 1 territory received scores that were slightly above those of the worst-ranked countries: Belarus, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and South Ossetia.

The consequences of the Arab Spring were the main tendency in 2012 allowing Libya and Tunisia to demonstrate significant improvement.

Moreover, the gains for the Arab Spring countries triggered a reaction, sometimes violent, by authoritarian leaders elsewhere in the Middle East, with resulting setbacks for freedom in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

The report’s findings were especially grim for Eurasian countries. Freedom House thinks Russia took a decided turn for the worse after Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. Having already marginalized the formal political opposition, he enacted a series of laws meant to squelch a burgeoning societal opposition. The measures imposed severe new penalties on unauthorized demonstrations, restricted the ability of civic groups to raise funds and conduct their work, and placed new controls on the internet.

Among Belarus's neighbours, Russia was identified as Not Free, Ukraine as Partly Free, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as Free.

The report calls on the United States and other democratic countries to demonstrate leadership in the struggle for freedom. It criticizes both the Obama administration and the Republican opposition for a reluctance to provide that leadership.

“Gains for reedom usually take place with the active participation of democracies like the United States and those in Europe. And where they have opted out of the struggle, the result is usually a defeat for freedom,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.