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Freedom House report highlights authoritarian offensive
Freedom House report highlights authoritarian offensive
The “color revolutions” ushered in democratic transitions, but also prompted a pronounced backlash against freedom of association worldwide, according to a new report from Freedom House. Governments are taking calculated action to restrict nongovernmental organizations, human rights groups and independent trade unions, notes Freedom of Association Under Threat: The New Authoritarians’ Offensive Against Civil Society.
Wednesday, November 19,2008 13:19
by Michael Allen Demdigest.net

The “color revolutions” ushered in democratic transitions, but also prompted a pronounced backlash against freedom of association worldwide, according to a new report from Freedom House. Governments are taking calculated action to restrict nongovernmental organizations, human rights groups and independent trade unions, notes Freedom of Association Under Threat: The New Authoritarians’ Offensive Against Civil Society.

“There are reasons to believe that the current round of restrictions is not a passing phenomenon,” said Arch Puddington, Freedom House director of research. “These setbacks can largely be traced to the emergence of a new breed of authoritarian leaders who employ repressive tactics that are much more sophisticated than those used in the past.” 

From 2004-2007, freedom of association deteriorated in almost every region except Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, with the most pronounced declines in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America, while associational rights were already endangered in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East/North Africa region. The analysis draws on the organization’s Freedom in the World data and includes reports on countries where associational rights are particularly threatened: Algeria, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. 

“The officers of NGOs are seldom arrested, placed on trial, sent to gulags, exiled, or murdered, though all these things do happen from time to time,” the report states. “Today’s authoritarians instead rely on legalistic or bureaucratic methods to hobble civil society,” including tax investigations and funding restrictions. “And because the drive against associational rights is conducted largely without violence, it evokes little notice from the outside world.”

The report notes that organized labor has experienced severe constraints on associational rights since the end of the Cold War, not least in Latin America where it confronts a range of challenges, from right-wing death squads in Colombia to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez’s “tried and true Marxist tactic of establishing parallel unions in an effort to bring the labor movement under his political control.” 

Related news:

  • The “closing of political space” in Ethiopia was raised on a recent trip to Addis Ababa by David J. Kramer, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He drew attention to a draft legislation on civil society organizations that will impose a 10 % threshold of foreign financing and 30% cap on administrative overhead. “Restrictions on the kinds of activities that would be affected by this legislation - basically, any organizations that are considered foreign or receive foreign financing that engage in human rights issues or issues dealing with the rights of women or the rights of children or the disabled, or conflict resolution - all of those things would be at risk under this legislation,” he noted.  
  • Idasa, the Southern African democracy group, has called for the release of Mario Masuku, leader of Swaziland’s banned Pudemo party who was detained three days ago under anti-terrorism legislation. Masuku has played a “leading role in promoting democracy and free political association and activity,” Idasa notes.

Posted in Activites , Human Rights , Workers  
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