Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

Katherin Machalek

The presidential election in Azerbaijan on October 9 was contorted by rigging, fraud, and other irregularities that blocked any chance for a rotation of power. But it revealed almost nothing new about the former Soviet republic’s hollowed-out governance institutions, as the lack of genuine democracy was well documented before the election. More remarkable is the international community’s mild response to this electoral sham—a disheartening testament to the West’s prioritization of strategic and economic relationships with the oil-rich Caspian Sea state over the protection of human rights and democratic values.

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Kimberly Brody

On October 11 and 12, the AU will meet in an extraordinary summit to discuss pulling out of the Rome Statute, the agreement that created the ICC. Such a decision would have major implications both for ICC itself and for accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses in Africa and around the world. The nearly three dozen African countries that are currently party to the Rome Statute must vote against this proposal and reaffirm their commitment to justice for victims, an end to impunity at the highest levels for the gravest crimes, and an international system that supports the rule of law.

Arch Puddington

Many of today’s legislative districts, especially in the House of Representatives, do not encompass communities, as Americans usually think of the term. Instead they aggregate groups of people who have the same skin color, the same level of wealth, the same biases, the same sorts of jobs, and, most importantly, very similar voting habits.

The result of all this can be seen right now in Washington, with the shutdown of the U.S. government, the collapse of bipartisanship even on issues of foreign policy and national security, and increasing dysfunction at the federal level.

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Ashley Greco-Stoner

Over the past 18 months, Latin America has borne witness to a changing legal landscape that directly impacts internet freedom. Constraints have come in varying forms in different countries, yet each affects the scope and depth of the content that can be found online. High-profile cases of intermediary liability—in which internet service providers (ISPs), website hosts, and search engines are held legally, and at times, criminally responsible for user-generated content—have come to the fore in Brazil and Argentina. In Ecuador, the June passage of the Organic Law on Communications set a legal precedent for holding platforms responsible for content posted by users, placing further legal pressure on an environment already under threat.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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