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Not free, but with a clear conscience
Written by Андрей Ъ-Козенко, Юлия Ъ-Таратута   
Четверг, 01 Февраль 2007
By Andrei Kozenko and Yuliya Taratuta, in ‘Kommersant
‘Freedom House’ evaluated Russia at North Korea’s level
 In 2006, Russia became a much less free country — this was the conclusion reached in the annual “State of Freedom in the World” report published by the international human rights organization, ‘Freedom House’.

For the first time Russia received the minimum possible score in civil liberties. Similar assessments were made of Cuba, Libya, and North Korea. Russian officials admit that Russia’s level of freedom may not the greatest in the world, but they disagree that she should be considered an outcast.
Yesterday, the international human rights organization ‘Freedom House’ published its annual freedom ratings. All countries were divided into three categories: free, partially free, and not free. Russia further reinforces its position in the third category, where it has been since 2004. Political freedom in Russia was estimated at 6, while civil liberties in Russia for the first time since it has participated in the ratings dropped to the lowest possible rating – 7 (a country is said to be free if it has a score of 1 to 2.5). Russia’s level of political freedom was on a par with Angola, Gabon, and Pakistan. Russian civil liberties, according to ‘Freedom House’, are the same as in Cuba, Libya, and North Korea.

In the report, ‘Freedom House’ said that Russia is continuing the “marginalization of the independent media and opposition members,” noting restrictions on the activities of opposition parties and pressure on non-governmental organizations. The report also noted a marked rise in xenophobic sentiment and the “promotion of hate against other ethnic groups, primarily Georgians.” Specifically mentioned was the as yet unsolved murder of ‘Novaya Gazeta’ correspondent Anna Politkovskaya.

“The authoritarian regime in Russia could be a model for other post-Soviet states,” concluded the authors of the report.

Sharing this opinion was former advisor to President Vladimir Putin, Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington. He was speaking at the presentation of the report. Mr. Illarionov told ‘Kommersant’ that “the area of the former USSR” is recognized as the most politically repressive region of the world. “The proportion of repressive regimes there is 40%. In comparison, it is 37.7% in Africa, and the blame for this process rests largely with Russia.” The expert believes that “Russia is engaged in the export of repression around the world, as manifested by the development of bilateral relations with authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. We are talking about an attempt to create new ‘ (3rd) International’ of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.”

As an indicator of the lack of freedom in Russia’s internal policies, Mr. Illarionov pointed out the purchase of Internet blogs by Russian oligarchs (the purchase of ‘Live Journal’ by a company owned by Alexander Mamut — ed), which can be used as instrument of state control over users of the network, to officially sponsor hate propaganda and a cult of force and threats, and to crack down on political and intellectual opponents. Mr. Illarionov mentioned killings during demonstrations, and accused the Russian authorities of being an obstacle in official investigations and openly acquitting suspects in these crimes.

The non-governmental organization ‘Freedom House’ was founded in 1941 with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is funded by a number of international charities, such as the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and the ‘Soros Foundation’, as well as the leadership of USAID and the U. S. Information Agency. ‘Freedom House’ has been publishing its ratings since 1973, analyzing political and civil liberties using a number of criteria, including freedom of speech, the development of civil society, judicial independence, and the level of corruption.

“Yes, we are far from the ideal,” commented Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, speaking with regards to the ‘Freedom House’ report to ‘Kommersant’. “You may recall that the Federal Parliament has not ratified reform protocols by the European Court, nor abolished the death penalty. But this evaluation was only made by one human rights organization, while at the same time Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, the main human rights community of the continent. I would rather focus on the consolidated opinion of the board. As for our level of freedom, we are not a leader, but we are far from being outcasts.”

Conclusions about the sorry state of freedoms in Russia in 2006, however, were not just from ‘Freedom’ House experts. In March, the Council of Europe in its report pointed out to the Russian leadership the problem of hazing in the (Russian) army. In May, Russia was twice criticized by the authoritative human rights organization ‘Amnesty International’: for the growth of nationalism, and for the “plight of the Chechen population.” In freedom of speech, according to Freedom House, Russia occupies 147th place, and a rating by ‘Reporters without borders’ puts it at 158th place out of 168 countries.


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  Comments (1)
1. Written by Лана, on 05-02-2007 07:06
Из сообщения Freedom House:
[URL=http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=463]null[/URL]
A number of recent reports in the Russian media have mistakenly characterized Russia’s freedom rating in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. The Russian press has incorrectly reported that Freedom House downgraded Russia in its latest assessment, and declared the state of freedom in Russia to be identical to that of North Korea and Libya.
Russia received the exact same rating in 2006 as it did in 2005 – a 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties (one a scale of 1 to 7, with the lowest score being 7.) Russia has been included in the Not Free category since 2004…
(Множество недавних сообщений в российских СМИ по ошибке характеризовало оценку свобод в России в мировом рейтинге в ежегодном обзоре Freedom House политических прав и гражданских свобод. Российская пресса неправильно сообщила, что Freedom House понизил Россию в своей последней оценке, и объявил, что степень гражданских свобод в России на одном уровне с Северной Корей и Ливией.
Россия получила в 2006 такую же оценку, как и в 2005 — 6 для политических прав и 5 для гражданских свобод (одинаковая шкала оценок от 1 до 7, самая низкая оценка 7.) Россия была включена в категорию несвободных стран с 2004…)

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