Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

Kateryna Krylova


The European Union and Ukraine are currently preparing for the Eastern Partnership Summit, which will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 28–29. Among the most important tasks on the agenda is the signing of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and a related Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). There have been signs of late that Kyiv is leaning toward closer ties with Europe, and away from the domineering embrace of Moscow, but it remains unclear whether the increasingly authoritarian administration of President Viktor Yanukovych is willing or able to enact the democratic reforms necessary for European integration.

Over the past several weeks, the Chinese authorities—urged on by President Xi Jinping—have engaged in an unprecedented crackdown on what they consider “harmful information” disseminated via popular microblogging platforms and other social media. The speed of microblogging and the sheer size of the user base have long allowed these media to serve as a rare venue for comparatively open discussion of political and social matters in China, despite heavy censorship. The new campaign threatens to close off this crucial public forum and drive citizens into greater isolation.

Freedom House has compiled the following questions for Anne Patterson, most recently the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, who has been nominated to serve as the next U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled for Thursday, September 19.

Arch Puddington

While most Tea Party commentary zeroes in on the threat of an oppressive statism here at home, the movement’s sweeping—and warped—interpretation of domestic developments has its complement in a badly distorted perspective on international affairs.

Fred Hiatt


However hard things may seem for the good guys in parts of the world right now, it’s quite obvious to everyone, on a purely objective basis, that the bad guys are not winning. Compare life in North Korea to life in South Korea, most obviously; compare life in Chile to life in Venezuela; compare life in Estonia to life in Belarus. Of course there are no straight lines or universal rules, but in general people can see that freedom works better than the alternative.

Nancy Okail

Human rights groups are routinely tarred in today’s Egyptian media—including social media—as either “traitors supporting terrorism” or “mercenaries selling their services to the highest bidder.” They are being denounced for treachery despite their utter dedication and consistency in standing by the principles of human rights and democracy through all the regime changes of the past three years. The general phenomenon is sadly familiar, but the current assault is especially severe, taking new forms and gaining wider public support.

Tyler Roylance

As the United States and its allies consider military action to punish the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iranian regime media have made hay of new evidence that Washington enabled Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks on Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Readers are also reminded that the United States used weapons like napalm and toxic chemical defoliants in Vietnam, among other historical infractions. In other words, America is accused of glaring hypocrisy. But inconsistent behavior should be condemned only when the swerve in question is toward error or wrongdoing. When the change is from bad to good, it should be welcomed.

Yoseph Badwaza

Photo Caption: Hailemariam Desalegn, current prime minister of Ethiopia
Photo courtesy Frontline Defenders

Ethiopian Prime Minister The death of Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi in August 2012 after two decades in power sparked hope that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) would undertake reforms to open up the political system and loosen the harsh restrictions imposed on civil society, the media, and opposition parties. However, one year into the administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Meles’s successor, not much has changed in the highly repressive country.

Arch Puddington

The March on Washington was a prequel to what today might be called a civil society campaign for democracy.

Geysha Gonzalez

The current situation in Russia has reignited the debate over whether it is acceptable for repressive, nondemocratic countries to host international sporting events. After all, many of these events, such as the Olympics and soccer’s European Cup, cite respect for human rights and the rejection of any form of discrimination as part of their mission statements and governing statutes. But if current trends are any guide, dictatorships will remain free to disregard those values and still host international events.

Pages