Freedom House Case Study
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Freedom House Case Study





The aim of this study is three-fold: First, it aims to evaluate how Freedom House defines democracy and whether the critics make valid points regarding potential score implications on ‘different’ democratic structures. Second, the study will review the instrumental players who use the scores, and repercussions regarding aid, policy, trade, or investment for the country. And thirdly, the study will look into the impact of Freedom House scores; the actions a country takes as a result and whether there are positive measureable impacts that can substantiate the consequences of the scores.



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Freedom House Case Study Freedom House Case Study Document Transcript

  • SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF COUNTRY CATEGORIZATION AND THE LOOPHOLES OF DEFINING DEMOCRACY: Freedom House Brienne Thomson SIS 644: Communication, Economic and Social Development November 2012
  • T h o m s o n | 2 Table of Contents Executive Summary___________________________________________________ 3 1 I n t r o d u c t i o n : Assessing Freedom______________________________ 4 1.1 Background: Disclosed and Democratic_________________________ 5 1.2 Significant Implications: Statistical Structure and Undocumented Impacts__ 6 2 L a n g u a g e o f t h e L i t e r a t u r e 2.1 Loopholes in Defining Democracy: A multifaceted meaning________ 8 2.15 Score Subsidies: Who’s funding Freedom?_________________ 10 2.2 Report Repercussions: How are FH stats used by governments, organizations and private-sector players to make decisions?________ 13 2.25 The “MCA Effect”___________________________________ 17 2.3 Inside Impacts: What, if any, changes are a direct effect ofFH scores?The Gap between the ratings and results._______________________18 3 C o n n e c t i n g t h e C o n s e q u e n c e s :Comparing Literature, Bridging the Gaps and Recommending Resolutions___________________________ 20 Notes______________________________________________________________ 23 Bibliography________________________________________________________ 26
  • T h o m s o n | 3 Executive Summary With almost four-decades of stamping countries with a measure of freedom, Freedom House has undergone much analysis about its methodology and political viewpoints that sway its qualitative system of determining a country‟s score. What has not been investigated are the repercussions and impacts a country faces as a result of their score. The aim of this study is three-fold: First, it aims to evaluate how Freedom House defines democracy and whether the critics make valid points regarding potential score implications on „different‟ democratic structures.Second, the study will review the instrumental players who use the scores, and repercussions regarding aid, policy, trade, or investment for the country. And thirdly, the study will look into the impact of Freedom House scores;the actions a country takes as a result and whether there are positive measureable impacts that can substantiate the consequences of the scores. My findings show that multiple styles and strengths of democratic governments make it hard to define the concept, and as a result, hard to judge different structures based on one definition. This gray area in language has opened the door to much criticism. Although, with transparent survey question methodology, the only ambiguity in Freedom House‟s report results, is potential personal bias in the analysis of the survey answers and the resulting score on the part of the surveyor. However, the fact that qualitative data on human behavior is inferential and can thus notbe delineated in black and white, makes for relatively groundless criticism; aside from the checks-and- balances scrutiny provides. With international use of the scores in both state and non- state actors, they do indeed play a decisive role in foreign aid, policy, trade, and investment for countries. But, something overlooked are the ideological implications negative scores can have on a country‟s people, regarding marred sentiments and perceptions about the state of their government and instability, which can in turn affect the state of the economy.And while the dialogue related to low or downgraded scores is publicized, the impact of the scores, as to measureable results regarding the instigation of reforms or repealing regulations that inhibit freedom, are not followed up on; unless, the country is a recipient of Millennium Challenge Corporation foreign aid. In this unique case, where Freedom House scores are a direct determination of which countries will receive foreign aid and assistance, quantitative results based on the scores are publicized.
  • T h o m s o n | 4 Introduction: Assessing Freedom Qualifying a country on such poignant and broad factors such as political rights, civil liberties and the status of their legal, political and economic environment is undeniably subjective. “An instrument used to measure everything, in the end, is not able to discriminate against anything,” noted Political Science Professor,Diego Giannone in the journal Democratization.1 And this, however, is exactly what Freedom House (FH), a U.S. based“independent watchdog organization”with non-profit status,* has been doing for 39 years. And what‟s more, is that their findings are blindly used by governments, organizations, academics, and the news media throughout the world.While this indiscriminate usage is not a revelation, it has caused Freedom House to undergoscathing criticism for their methods of categorization because of the ideological implications of their reports. Nevertheless, since there is no way to rationally deem a universal „value‟ on a level of freedom, Freedom House‟s annual reports on Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press, and their new Freedom on the Net report, will remain in the midst of the quantitative/qualitative battles that wage on between the hard and social sciences. With such vast use and weight given to the FH statistics come social, political and economic repercussionsthat result from a country‟s score. And because of this, the critical battle can only help to keep such impactful classifications under scrutiny as to their accuracy and thereasoning behind them. But before discussing the major contentious points behind Freedom House‟s methodology and why they are so imperative to a country‟s well-being, the objectives behind why Freedom House does what it doesmust be addressed.
  • T h o m s o n | 5 *Nowhere on their website does FH attribute themselves to having NGO status, however they are listed as having consultative NGO status since 1995 by the United Nations. They do, however, acknowledge themselves as a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization. Background: Disclosed and Democratic Freedom House was created by an epistemic community of prominent journalists, business leaders, and ex-government officials during the 1940s. The formation of the organization was promoted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his wife and famedprogressive feminist, Eleanor, serving as the organization‟s first honorary co-chair. The foundation of Freedom House was based on maintaining an international humanitarian connection at a time when Americans were trying to close-off from totalitarian philosophies abroad during World War II.Freedom Houseopposed authoritarianism, communism, military-dictatorships, and McCarthyism in the 50s. To combat these sentiments, the mission of the organization was to extendand endorse the message of democracy and help structure those governments trying to transition into a democratic way of life. Freedom House was pro-Marshall Plan and NATO to help reconstruct a post-war Europe. They also upheld social freedoms, such as racial equality. These ideals of the organization were publicized and upheld as their founding principles. And even though Freedom House gets its fair share of criticism based on political bias, the documentation about the foundation of the organization and the explanation oftheir reporting methodologiesblatantly state that, “The survey operates from the assumption that freedom for all people is best achieved in liberal democratic societies.”2 With that said, democracy is both a form of government and the founding principle of the organization, so the fact that there is political bias in the FH reports has never been an undisclosed issue.In spite of this,as it is with a lot of qualitative statistics,
  • T h o m s o n | 6 the persistent criticism boils down to the gray areas of language as it is used to define the values of democracy. Significant Implications Democracy, which is broadly defined as „having a free and equal say in a multi- party governmental system,‟ is a convoluted concept. Like a vine that has been spreading, blossoming, dying and regrowing, democracy has countless offshoots and countless ideologies; neoliberalism, democratic-socialism, conservatism, and the list goes on. That being said, justifying a„lower than expected‟FH score to a self-purported democratic country requires substantiating evidence and the ability to define the structure of the survey questions. Freedom House claims that their methodological questions were formed under the auspice of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document drafted by the United Nations after the Second World War that proclaims fundamental human rights to be universally protected. But despite FH‟s purported methodologically scrupulous question formation, survey techniques, interviews, fact checking, analysis and detailed reports, when all is tallied and done, 195 countries and 14 territories, depending on which report, will get a “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free” stamp based on Freedom House‟s definition of „democracy‟. On aRussia Today (RT News) interview, David Swanson, the author of War is a Lie, noted that the FH account is very simplistic and that only a minority of countries receive the title of “Free.” It seems intended to set up divisions that there are free countries going up against non-free countries in a competition to covert each other, and that doesn‟t seem to correspond with the foreign policy of some of the free countries, which seem to engage in support for dictators and military coups abroad.3 By being dealt this scarlet letter, which sails through media outlets, into academic papers and onto government desks, what are the implications? With all of the Freedom
  • T h o m s o n | 7 House criticism, which I have only just tipped the iceberg on, the component that has been minimally mentioned in journals and articlesare the repercussions countries endure as a result of their score. If a country were to get downgraded from “Free” to “Partly Free” for example, would a company think twice about an investment? Would a government think twice about policy or trade? In the essay, Evaluating the Evaluators, John Burgess, a veteran of The Washington Post, detailed that the FH„stamp‟ ramifications could be huge. World Bank researchers use the numbers when drafting papers that help determine how much aid a country will get. Political scientists type the studies‟ findings into spreadsheets in efforts to identify new correlations and relationships between media freedom and other factors of countries‟ political systems. UN and national and private aid organizations use the surveys in programming hundreds of millions of dollarsof media development funding. Reporters and columnists employ them in discoursing on media freedom, diplomats in bringing pressure on governments that rank low.4 That being said, this study aims to evaluate the criticisms that purport Freedom House‟s surveys are politically skewed in relation to how FH defines democracy, and whether the critics make valid points regarding potential score implications on „different‟ democratic structures.In the second segment, the study will review different governments, organizations and private-sector players that use the scores, and how the scores can affect relationships and decisions; whether they are regarding aid, policy, trade, or investment for the country. The third section of the study will review how governments respond and react to their country‟s Freedom House score, the actions a country takes as a result and whether there are measureable impacts that can substantiate the purpose of the scores. And finally, the literature and linking pins that
  • T h o m s o n | 8 connect the Freedom House scores to their observational, financial, relational, and legal, implications will be commented on. Loopholes in Defining Democracy The definition of democracy has varied over time as economies globalize and developed countries promote the democratic structure through political action and aid dollars. Some base it on multi-party electoral systems, political autonomy,socialliberties, equality or economic freedom. And the established categories, from minimalist polyarchydemocracies to direct, electoral, representative and liberal democracies, blur together as they move from informal to formal. With all of these variations, there has been a lot of criticism on the way Freedom House defines democracy, how that definition shapes their methodology questions and thus, how the scores of countries with different democratic systems are affected. From the pages of their 2012 Methodology disclosure, FH offers some brief insight into their categorizations of democracies: Freedom House‟s term „electoral democracy‟ differs from „liberal democracy‟ in that the latter also implies the presence of a substantial array of civil liberties. In the survey, all Free countries qualify as both electoral and liberal democracies. By contrast, some Partly Free countries qualify as electoral, but not liberal, democracies.2 While there arefine and subjective lines that separate the factors that go into making judgments about a county‟s democratic structure, the FH questions are FREEDOM HOUSE DEFINES Political Rights Free participation in political process And the right to: vote freely for alternatives in legitimate elections compete for public office join political parties and organizations elect representatives who impact public policy and are accountable to electorate Civil Liberties Allow for the freedoms of: expression and belief association and organization rule of law to protect rights personal autonomy without interference from the state
  • T h o m s o n | 9 accompanied by a general rubric and hand-selected international relations experts. And, although this certainly does not eliminate bias or gray areas, it is qualitative research; there are no black and white numerical stats that can lend to the understanding of human behavior.However, as critics have noted, there are approaches that can attenuate potentialpartiality. First, evaluating the basic structure and elements of the FH reports will give insight into making comparisons among different „levels‟ of democracy and whether the verdicts are fair. Freedom House‟s main Freedom in the World report contains two categories, Political Rights and Civil Liberties, with 10 and 15 methodological questions respectively. However, as noted, the surveyors assign the scores. And as many critics have sharply pointed out, the scores are based on the political viewpoints and the way the surveyor defines and analyses the answer.In the Journal of Peace Research, Political Science Professor, David Armstrong commented on the fact that the person who deciphers numerical ratings for each country is the same person who writes the country report. “However, the numerical ratings are debated by a number of individuals and the final numbers provided for each country are, from what I can gather, a result of considerable debate and compromise,” wrote Armstrong. “The fact that there is likely variation in opinion does not get considered.” 5 A variation in opinion certainly means a variation in reporting numbers, but there will always be a difference in opinion among individuals. The more controversial FH criticism accuses the organization of having a political slant that biases the Freedom in the World/Press/Net scores. David Swanson, American activist and director of
  • T h o m s o n | 10, further commented on this FH „angle‟ in his interview with RT news, by exemplifying the conditions of how FH defines freedom. It‟s looking at civil liberties and political rights in a certain context. So if you have open bribery that‟s a problem, if you‟ve legalized bribery in your election system, that‟s not a problem. If you have a military leader that‟s a problem, if you have a president that can rewrite laws that are passes by congress that‟s not a problem. If you‟re stealing paper ballots that‟s a problem, if you have an electronic voting system where you can‟t tell who got what votes to save your life, no problem at all. If you have state run media, doesn‟t matter how good a job it does, that‟s a problem. If you have corporate media, it can be completely corrupted, but that gets you a perfect score. So there‟s a certain angle that these reports are taking that can miss a certain level of lack of freedom in countries like mine.3 And while Freedom House President David Kramer insists that the FH reports uphold “rigorous methodology” for evaluating countries, “That's not to say that we are perfect,” he continued in an interview withThe Ukrainian Weekmagazine. “We struggle every year to make the analysis and ranking better than the year before. But I think that it is about as good as it could be.” 6 Score Subsidies And while the concept of democracy is broad, the „angle‟ from which the questions were formed, the preconceptions of the reporting analysis team, and the political influence of the major funders of the Freedom House have been accused of playing a significant role in calculating a country‟s „stamp‟. As published on the FH website, the primary funding for Freedom House is from U.S. governmental agencies. In its 2010 report, Freedom House noted that it received its biggest donations, of over $250,000, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State and The United Nations Democracy Fund. The remainder of the funding came
  • T h o m s o n | 11 from private companies and institutions, like Google and the Open Society Institute, foreign governments, including the United Kingdom and Canada, and from individuals.7 The sponsorship of pro-democracy advocate organizations, like Freedom House, is nothing new for the U.S. government. In fact, both the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute are financed by Congress and its $100 million annual budget for the National Endowment.9 However, a lot of the criticism FH gets as being politically sided in its judgments is based on the active role it plays in instigating its mission; the spread “freedom [that] is possible only in democratic political environments.”10 “Freedom House distinguishes itself from other human rights organizations by doing more than simply monitoring and reporting abuses,” the organization wrote in their 2010 report. “Freedom House acts as a catalyst for freedom by providing civic activists, youth groups, think tanks, journalists and human rights defenders with the resources they need to peacefully advance freedom in their countries.” 7 Playing an active role in political upheaval will continue to be contentious since there are always two sides to every battle. However, it is the side chosen and the FREEDOM HOUSE DONORS Over $250,000 U.S. Agency for International Development U.S. Department of State The United Nations Democracy Fund $100,000-$249,999 Google, Inc. International League for Human Rights Leon Levy Foundation Lilly Enowment Inc. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs Open Society Institute Smith Richardson Foundation Walter J. Schloss $50,000-$99,999 The George W. Bush Institute National Endowment for Democracy $25,000-$49,999 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund American Federation of Teachers Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Daniel Rose F.M. Kirby Foundation The Iraq Foundation The John Hurford Foundation Open World Leadership Center Ottaway Foundation The Albert Shanker Institute Visa, Inc. William H. Taft IV $10,000-$24,999 Amgen Corporation British Embassy Astana Carleton S. Fiorina David Nastro Embassy of Canada to the United States Embassy of the United Kingdom to the United States Free Voice GoliAmeri Irish Aid MacLeod Family Trust Philip D. Harvey Taiwan Foundation for Democracy United Nations Development Fund for Women William S. Edgerly Yen Chuang Foundation $5,000-9,999 Carter Center D. Jeffrey Hirschberg The Harman Family Foundation The IrfanKathwari Foundation, Inc Jennifer Windsor John C. Whitehead Kenneth Juster Theodore N. Mirvis
  • T h o m s o n | 12 assumed role Freedom House has played in conflict situations that have garnered international attention. In 2012, U.S./Egyptian relations were strained when FH employee activists werecharged with receiving money to fund democratic activities in Egyptwithout a license. They also took and active role in Egypt‟s “Arab Spring” by posting anti-Mubarak sentiments to social media outlets andtraining protesters. “We learned how to organize and build coalitions,” said BashemFathy, a founder of the youth movement that ultimately drove the Egyptian uprisings. Fathy, who attended training with Freedom House, said, “This certainly helped during the revolution.” 9 Although, aside from supporting activists involved in the movement, Freedom House and other advocacy groups maintain they did not initiate or fund the protests. In regards to Freedom House‟s „funder-influence‟ criticism, a DC-based think- tank called the Institute for Policy Studiesclaimed that the Freedom House “Leadership remains heavily represented by individuals affiliated with neoconservatism and it has continued to support projects aimed at bolstering aggressive U.S. foreign policies.”8 The tag of “neoconservatism” is also supported by Giannone‟sFreedom House study that claims this politicalideology of supporting military intervention and big government is the backbone of FH and the cause for its bias.Giannone also alleged that modifications to the FH questions were “ideologically driven” and “linked to the neoliberal paradigm.” The majority of these allegations claim that the reason for FH‟s statistical bias is a result of FH modifying their questions to satisfy U.S. foreign policy ideologies, and that this shift in U.S. foreign policy ideals was from the “liberal democratic” ethics, as were
  • T h o m s o n | 13 instituted by the Roosevelt administration, to “neoliberal” and “neoconservative” dynamisms as were born ofthe Regan administration. However, according toNoam Chomsky in a 2009 interview for the documentary Encirclement, neoliberalism is nothing new. He stated that the economic powers of the U.S. and Western Europe were fortified “by radically violating what are now called neoliberal principles; strong states, direct intervention in the economy and so on. India and China were devastated and the same is true for what we now call the 'Third World.' How? Forced imposition of market principles. …Forced liberalization pretty much created the Third World.”11 Thus, putting these contentious points together; that Freedom House has developed a neoconservative and neoliberal focus and Chomsky‟s assertion that, other than the title, the concept of neoliberalism is not new, we are left with an organization, Freedom House,that was founded on the same principles it now champions. Report Repercussions Freedom House report statistics are publicized and utilized in multiple different avenues of media; mainstream national and international broadcasts and publications, including social media, blogs and other online journals. They‟re used in academic journals as substantiating or comparative data in studies ranging from health to economics to journalism. Other human rights groups, think-tanks, international development organizations, NGOs and private businesses use the statistics and descriptive reports to guide projects proposals and investments. And most instrumentally, they are used by governments to help formulate policy. Through this multiplicity of networks and the status of those who have come to trust and support
  • T h o m s o n | 14 Freedom House over the past 71-years, they have garnered a reputation. As a result, their judgments and reports are often times accepted and used by the aforementioned sources at face value despite other related indicators: International Research & Exchanges Board‟s Media Sustainability Index Reporters Without Borders‟ Worldwide Press Freedom Index Fraser Institute Economic Freedom of the World Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index “Some of these indicators may not measure the same precise phenomena as Freedom House, or cover the same broad range of countries or extend as far back in history, or possess Freedom House‟s high profile,” wrote Nikhil Dutta in his Accountability in the Generation of Governance Indicators report. “Thus, some users may default to use of Freedom House‟s ratings even in the absence of transparency or reason-giving that helps persuade them that the ratings are reliable, basing their choice not on probable accuracy but on reputation or the need for extensive data." 12 And with such a vast array of users and usages of Freedom House‟s verdicts, come a vast array ofaftereffects. For example, Freedom House‟s “Free,” Partly Free” and “Not Free” stamps can lead to public demands for reform, protests, changes in domestic regulation, international policy and even in national and international ideologies. “The effect seems to be, very simplistically, to divide the world into opposing camps … and when you have reports putting North Korea in the list of „the worst countries,‟ in the minds of many Americans that becomes and argument for war; sensibly or legally or not. So there‟s a potential for serious damage from these kinds of reports,” said Swanson, in an RT News interview.3
  • T h o m s o n | 15 This potential degradation in national and international sentiments about a downgraded country is a powerful force. A people‟s perception of their government and its stability has drastic effects on the economy. Thus, due to the power that the Freedom House reports have and their strong connections to the „American Superpower‟, many critics liken Freedom House to a ghostwriter for the U.S. government. “Freedom House today positions itself as a nuanced, liberal, or even left-of- center organization, obscuring its real agenda: to destabilize foreign governments whose policies challenge U.S. global hegemony,” wrote Jeremy Bigwood in an essay published by the North American Congress on Latin America.” 13 One example of a conceivably damaging Freedom House report repercussion comes from Hungary, which was downgraded from “Free” to “Partly Free” in its 2012 Freedom of the Press report. In an article detailing the rationale behind the downgrade, Freedom House‟s VP for Strategy and Analysis, Christopher Walker, wrote: The related establishment of a National Data Protection Agency and a powerful media and communications regulator, whose tentacles can reach far into Hungary‟s information landscape, offers the political leadership an institutional mechanism for media control … Hungary‟s fall from Free to Partly Free has exposed the relative fragility of its young democracy … illiberal politics and a grim economic environment are conspiring to shrink the space for independent media in new democracies in Central Europe. 14 Hungarian government officials took serious offense to the allegations, with the State Secretary for Government Communication, ZoltánKovács, countering that,“The US-bent organization has once again failed to produce a report clear of political
  • T h o m s o n | 16 motivation and assessment. In light of last year‟s report, this is nothing but a self- fulfilling, hypocritical prophesy.” 15 On the other hand, critical Freedom House reports have also activated positive outcomes. In 2010, Cambodia remained in a “Not Free” status on the Freedom of the Press index as the 128th least free country of 178 included in the report. About the Cambodian media, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) referenced the FH study and noted that, “According to Freedom House, journalists critical of the state remain vulnerable to threats or intimidation, and professional training opportunities are scarce.” This exposure of a country in need of professional development instigated a $17,600 USD investment by the UNESCO to train citizen journalists in community informatics, like the production of radio broadcasts. The project goal was to, “Build the capacity of communities to advocate for their rights in general (not only the right to freedom of expression), strengthen independent media networks and bolster media diversity in Cambodia.”16 Along the lines of report repercussions, the Freedom House indexes can also affect whether or not investment, trade agreements or aid will be granted. When Freedom House President David Kramer was asked whether or not a country‟s ranking affects potential investors by The Ukranian Week news magazine, he responded, “When a country is moving in the wrong direction on freedom scores, it generally still does have sufficient rule of law to attract the proper or adequate foreign investment. But I do know that US government agencies attach significance to the scores and rankings we report.” 6
  • T h o m s o n | 17 This “significance” is exemplified in foreign aid allocation from the United States‟ Millennium Challenge Account, in what‟s been dubbed, The “MCA Effect”. The MCA Effect Established by the U.S. Congress in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has a goal of giving assistance and aid to developing countries through a sustainable methodology; the recipient must identify priorities and proposals for economic enhancement and uplifting those from the echelon of poverty, and play an active role in attaining it. But in order to garner the supported and guided involvement of the MCC, a country must first achieve eligibility statuson a number of platforms, including demonstrating economic freedom and steps toward democratic governance reform. “Eligibility is based on indicators compiled by bodies ranging from the World Health Organization to the democracy watchdog Freedom House and the conservative Heritage Foundation,” reported CNSnews.17 Freedom House„s Executive Director, Jennifer Windsor,attributes an increase in attention to the Freedom in the World ratings based on their use by the MCC, which demonstrates the pivotal impact of the FH scores. “What some perceive as a rather blunt instrument, the MCC‟s use of an indicator for eligibility decision-making appears to be creating an incentive not only for countries to adopt targeted reforms, but also for source agencies to improve,” stated the non- profit think-tank, Center for Global Development, about the use of FH scores. “This is an important contribution by the MCC to measuring development impact well beyond its own programs.” 18
  • T h o m s o n | 18 Despite measurable successes the Millennium Challenge Corporation has published through its impact evaluations on projects ranging from efforts to decrease air pollution in Mongolia, reconstruct irrigation systems in Moldova and extend electricity to deprived communitiesin Tanzania, there is still criticism. And just like Freedom House with a stated goal of disseminating democracy and economic freedom, although to a lesser extent, the MCC does get disparaging comments about aid distribution being influenced by political factors despite their publish criteria. Inside Impacts Responses to Freedom House reports, mainly downgrades, are big. Countries go on the defensive and dialogue with the U.S. government is immediately prompted. In the aforementioned case of Hungary‟s demotion to a “Partly Free” stamp, due to the imposition of new regulations that seemingly reversed the post-communistic country‟s democratic progression, the State Communication Secretary, Kovacs, posed his defense through the media and even flew to DC to justifythe new laws. In a Response to the Freedom House Reportposted on the Hungarian Government‟s website, officials condemn the FH organization for not showing, “The slightest sign of empathy or understanding towards the region, and specifically Hungary, that left communism behind twenty years ago but is still in need of a number of changes and reforms on account of the deficiencies of the inherited constitutional system.” 19 And while they naturally defended aggression toward their country, they also admitted the need for “changes and reforms.” But have they been made? What is the next step? While the Freedom House report has succeeded in bringing attention to something they view as anti-democratic to the world‟s stage and promoting discussion,
  • T h o m s o n | 19 other than a wounded reputation and a people who might have a greater mistrust of their government, what are the results of the report? Was it worth the potential harm it has done to the pride and nationalism of the Hungarian people? These are the types of questions left unanswered. “It doesn‟t matter how much Mr. Kovács and Mr. Szapáry [the Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S.] complain: the report of Freedom House is devastating.” 20 Alternatively, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has acted as a liking pin between the Freedom House reports and quantifiable results. Efforts at making their actions transparent, and specifically the positive impacts on developing countries that have been confirmed, have substantiated a positive purpose for the FH reports. With the drive to achieve a Millennium Challenge Account, “Developing countries are changing domestic laws and policies specifically in order to qualify for MCA funding,” reported Rebecca Stubbs in the Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law. “MCA funding disbursements, or „Compacts,‟ are also directly influencing governance and the rule of law through various programming mandates.21 As an example, prospective MCA aid recipient, Nicaragua, had to pass legislation for the Road Maintenance Fund in order to secure funding. In respond to the requirement, a Nicaraguan government official stated that, “The passage of the law was „unthinkable‟ before the arrival of the MCC.” The $175 million of MCC funds, however, was enough incentive for the National Assembly to pass the bill.22
  • T h o m s o n | 20 Connecting the Consequences As exemplified, the reaction to Freedom House scores can either instigate change for the better or cause strife and a diminished national pride. On one hand, a gap exists between the dialogue that results from allocating a score and to what extent, if at all, there was a resulting measureable impact. The multiplexity of the network that revolves around Freedom House and the political barriers to transparency that exist in weak-democratic governments or those with a more totalitarian structure, make monitoring any potential outcomes of the scores difficult. Also, while governments of this nature can both learn from and compare the FH analysis with other legislative structures, they can also block the transfer of knowledge through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) diffusion from their citizens to prevent social reaction or coercive isomorphism from within. This is a perfect example of the pre-and-post Arab Spring, ongoing and spreading since 2010, that resulted from the dissemination of ICTs. The uprisings were mainly attributed to the spread of, previously blocked, news, information and revolutionary ideas that had been making their way through „info- isolated‟ populations by means of social media networks and mobile devices. In this globally connected digital world, the path of information is now detectable. This is a component of monitoring the effect of news and knowledge is what needs to be picked up by media, international development organizations and mostly, Freedom House itself, to substantiate the repercussions of its reports. Freedom House has methods and metrics to compile and formulate a country‟s status and democratically progressive recommendations, but why not for the results? Is criticism constructive without a response?And is the role of embedding potentially negative ideals both in the population of a country and its network of economic players effective?
  • T h o m s o n | 21 For a select group of countries that qualify for MCC foreign aid assistance, however, the void has been filled. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has become a link between one‟s Freedom in the World stamp and actual report results. However, the MCC‟s linking-pin role is only applicable for a select few who qualify for funding. With 71-years in the business of promoting democratic values and individual freedoms, Freedom House has indeed been given a fair amount of both support and criticism from a multitude of sources, disciplines and countries. And with having a foundation and methodology based on democratic principles, it is no surprise that governments who are either not democratic and/or have weaker structures of democracy are both going to get lower scores and be more critical of Freedom House‟s approach. “Arab countries generally do poorly in media freedom rankings, as do China, Russia, and many countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” notedBurgess‟ Evaluating the Evaluatorspiece. “The very bottom ranks consistently include North Korea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, and Eritrea.” But when ranking countries in order of democratic freedoms, it is no surprise that the communist, socialist, presidential-republic and monarchical governments just might not meet the denotation of “Free.” So while criticism provokes checks-and-balances, a spade is a spade. Freedom House was, in part, created by the government, it upholds and promotes democratic ideals, it receives funding from the government and it works in conjunction with the government on certain mutual endeavors. So, while FH may design and implement its own reporting research and methodology, an apple doesn‟t fall far
  • T h o m s o n | 22 from the tree. Even in lieu of Freedom House‟s „White House‟ foundation, when two entities share mutual priorities and principles, that in itself, is a connection. With this in mind, as any reporter is responsible for the validity of the facts theypublish, the accountability falls on the shoulders of those who substantiate claims or share opinions based on Freedom House statistics to disclose any subjectivity or criticism. The fact that data based on human behavior are qualitative and inferential, and that the foundation and principles of Freedom House are not going to change, the reports simply need to be used in an ethical manner with the potential repercussions in mind.
  • T h o m s o n | 23 Notes 1. Diego Giannone, “Political and Ideological Aspects in the Measurement of Democracy: the Freedom House Case,” Democratization 17, no. 1 (January–February 2010): 68. 2.Freedom House, “Methodology: Freedom in the World 2012,”, (2012) 2012/methodology>(accessed 3 November 2012). 3. Kristine Frazao, “Jury's Out on Whether U.S. Fit to Judge Freedom of Countries Abroad,” RT News (January 13, 2011), <> (accessed 4 November 2012). 4.John Burgess, Evaluating the Evaluators: Media Freedom Indexes and What They Measure, (Washington DC: National Endowment for Democracy, 2010), 4-6. 5. David A. Armstrong II,“Stability and change in the Freedom House political rights and civil liberties measures,”Journal of Peace Research (September 22, 2011): 10. 6. ZhannaBezpiatchuk, “Freedom House: We Will Continue To Tell the Truth,” The Ukranian Week,January 27, 2012 7. Freedom House, “2010 Report,”, (2010) <>(accessed 4 November 2012). 8. Institute for Policy Studies, “Freedom House,” Right Web (July 1, 2011), <>(accessed 3 November 2012). 9. Ron Nixon, “Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” New York Times (April 14, 2011), <>(accesse d 13 November 2012). 10. Freedom House, “About Us,”, <>(accessed 4 November 2012).
  • T h o m s o n | 24 11. Noam Chomsky, Encirclement: Neo-liberalism Ensnares Democracy, Directed by Richard Brouillette, Québec, Canada, 2009. 12. Nikhil K. Dutta, “Accountability in the Generation of Governance Indicators: Global Power through Classification and Rankings,” (New York: Institute for International Law and Justice Emerging Scholars Papers, 2012), 47. 13. Jeremy Bigwood, “Freedom House: The Language of Hubris,” NACLA Report on the Americas (September 2012): 63. 14. Christopher Walker, “Bad News for Fans of Free Speech,” Transitions Online, (May 2012) < freedom.html>(accessed 16 November 2012). 15. All Hungary News, “Freedom House downgrades Hungary press to „partially free‟; gov‟t brands report „biased‟ and „politically motivated,‟” ( May 1, 2012), < partially-free-govt-brands-report-biased-politically-motivated/>(accessed 16 November 2012). 16. UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), “Sustaining community and media participation in promoting freedom of expression,” (2012), http://www.unesco- freedom-expression(accessed 15 November 2012). 17. Patrick Goodenough, “Watchdog Gives U.S. Agencies Poor Marks for Transparency in Foreign Aid,” Cybercast News Service (October 4, 2012). < transparency-foreign-aid> (accessed 14 November 2012). 18.Center for Global Development,“Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Blog: Freedom House Releases Improved Freedom in the World Indicators,” October 4, 2006,< improve.php> 19. Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, “Response to the Freedom House Report,” The Website of the Hungarian Government, (June 7, 2012), < justice/news/response-to-the-freedom-house-report>(accessed 17 November 2012).
  • T h o m s o n | 25 20. “The Orbán government‟s answer to Freedom House,” Hungarian Spectrum: Reflections on Politics Economics, and Culture (blog), June 7, 2012 < to-freedom-house/>(accessed 16 November 2012). 21. Rebecca Stubbs, “The Millennium Challenge Account: Influencing Governance in Developing Countries Through Performance-Based Foreign Aid,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law, (July 11, 2012) < governance-in-developing-countries-through-performance-based-foreign- aid/>(accessed 16 November 2012). 22.Center for Global Development, “The MCA Effect – Incentives for Policy Reform,”, “n.d.” < araguafield/headlines/mcaeffect>(accessed 15 November 2012).
  • T h o m s o n | 26 Bibliography All Hungary News. “Freedom House downgrades Hungary press to „partially free‟; gov‟t brands report „biased‟ and „politically motivated.‟” ( May 1, 2012). partially-free-govt-brands-report-biased-politically-motivated/(accessed 16 November 2012). Armstrong II, David A.,“Stability and change in the Freedom House political rights and civil liberties measures,”Journal of Peace Research (September 22, 2011): 10. Bezpiatchuk,Zhanna. “Freedom House: We Will Continue To Tell the Truth.” The Ukranian Week,January 27, 2012 Bigwood, Jeremy, “Freedom House: The Language of Hubris,” NACLA Report on the Americas (September 2012): 63. Burgess, John. Evaluating the Evaluators: Media Freedom Indexes and What They Measure, Washington DC: National Endowment for Democracy, 2010). Center for Global Development. “Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Blog: Freedom House Releases Improved Freedom in the World Indicators.” October 4, 2006, improve.php (accessed 15 November 2012). Center for Global Development.“The MCA Effect – Incentives for Policy Reform.” “n.d.” s/nicaraguafield/headlines/mcaeffect (accessed 15 November 2012). Chomsky, Noam. Encirclement: Neo-liberalism Ensnares Democracy. Directed by Richard Brouillette. Québec, Canada. 2009. Dutta, Nikhil K., “Accountability in the Generation of Governance Indicators: Global Power through Classification and Rankings,” (New York: Institute for International Law and Justice Emerging Scholars Papers, 2012), 1-55. Frazao, Kristine. “Jury's Out on Whether U.S. Fit to Judge Freedom of Countries
  • T h o m s o n | 27 Abroad.” RT News (January 13, 2011). (accessed 4 November 2012). Freedom House.“2010 Report.” (2010) 4 November 2012). Freedom House, “About Us,”, < us>(accessed3 November 2012). Freedom House.“Methodology: Freedom in the World 2012.” (2012) 2012/methodology(accessed 3 November 2012). Giannone, Diego. “Political and Ideological Aspects in the Measurement of Democracy: the Freedom House Case,”Democratization 17, no. 1 (January–February 2010): 68–97. Goodenough, Patrick. “Watchdog Gives U.S. Agencies Poor Marks for Transparency in Foreign Aid.”Cybercast News Service (October 4, 2012). transparency-foreign-aid (accessed 14 November 2012). Institute for Policy Studies. “Freedom House,” Right Web (July 1, 2011). <>(accessed 3 November 2012). Nixon, Ron. “Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings.” New York Times (April 14, 2011). essed 13 November 2012). Ministry of Public Administration and Justice. “Response to the Freedom House Report.”The Website of the Hungarian Government. (June 7, 2012), justice/news/response-to-the-freedom-house-report(accessed 16 November 2012). Stubbs, Rebecca. “The Millennium Challenge Account: Influencing Governance in
  • T h o m s o n | 28 Developing Countries Through Performance-Based Foreign Aid.” Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law.(July 11, 2012) influencing-governance-in-developing-countries-through-performance-based- foreign-aid/(accessed 16 November 2012). “The OrbánGovernment‟s Answer to Freedom House,” Hungarian Spectrum: Reflections on Politics Economics, and Culture (blog), June 7, 2012 < answer-to-freedom-house/>(accessed 16 November 2012). Walker, Christopher. “Bad News for Fans of Free Speech.”Transitions Online. (May 2012) freedom.html(accessed 16 November 2012). UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). “Sustaining community and media participation in promoting freedom of expression.” (2012).http://www.unesco- promoting-freedom-expression(accessed 15 November 2012).