FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONS by Arch PuddingtonThe political uprisings that swept across the dissident writers to long terms in prison. InArab world over the past year represent the most Russia, the state-controlled media bombardedsignificant challenge to authoritarian rule since domestic audiences with predictions of chaosthe collapse of Soviet communism. In a region and instability as a consequence of the Arabthat had seemed immune to democratic change, protests, with a clear message that demands forcoalitions of activist reformers and ordinary political reform in Russia would have similarlycitizens succeeded in removing dictators who catastrophic results. In other Eurasian countrieshad spent decades entrenching themselves in and in parts of Africa, the authorities went topower. In some cases, protest and upheaval was considerable lengths to suppress demonstrationsfollowed by the beginnings of democratic and isolate the democratic opposition.institution building. At year’s end, two countrieswith unbroken histories of fraudulent polling, The authoritarian response to change in theTunisia and Egypt, had conducted elections that Middle East had a significant impact on the stateobservers deemed competitive and credible, and of global freedom at year’s end. The findings offreedom of expression had gained momentum in Freedom in the World 2012, the latest edition ofmany Middle Eastern societies. Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties, showed that slightlyUnfortunately, the gains that were recorded in more countries registered declines than exhibitedTunisia, and to a considerably lesser extent in gains over the course of 2011. This marks theEgypt and Libya, were offset by more dubious sixth consecutive year in which countries withtrends elsewhere in the region. Indeed, the declines outnumbered those with improvements.overthrow of autocrats in these countriesprovoked determined and often violent The continued pattern of global backsliding—responses in many others, most notably in Syria, especially in such critical areas as presswhere by year’s end the Assad dictatorship had freedom, the rule of law, and the rights of civilkilled over 5,000 people in its efforts to crush society—is a sobering reminder that thewidespread antigovernment protests. Similar if institutions that anchor democratic governanceless bloody crackdowns took place in Bahrain cannot be achieved by protests alone. Yet ifand Yemen. there is an overarching message for the year, it is one of hope and not of reversal. For the firstThis pattern of protest and repression—with an time in some years, governments and rulers whoemphasis on the latter—was echoed elsewhere mistreated their people were on the defensive.in the world as news of the Arab uprisings This represents a welcome change from thespread beyond the Middle East and North dominant trends of just a year ago, whenAfrica. In China, the authorities responded to authoritarian powers repressed domestic criticsevents in Cairo’s Tahrir Square with a near- and dismissed mild objections from thehysterical campaign of arrests, incommunicado democratic world with brazen contempt. Indetentions, press censorship, and stepped-up 2010, China conducted a bullying campaigncontrol over the internet. The Chinese against the Nobel committee for honoring jailedCommunist Party’s pushback, which aimed to dissident Liu Xiaobo, Russia imposed a secondquash potential prodemocracy demonstrations prison term on former oil magnate Mikhailbefore they even emerged, reached a crescendo Khodorkovsky after a fraudulent judicialin December with the sentencing of a number of proceeding, and Egyptian president Hosni
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSMubarak’s National Democratic Party claimed Freedom’s Trajectory in 2011to have won heavily rigged parliamentaryelections with well over 80 percent of the seats. The number of countries exhibiting gains for the past year, 12, lagged somewhat behind theIn 2011, by contrast, the signal events were the number with declines, 26. The most noteworthyoverthrow of Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine el- gains were in the Middle East—in Tunisia,Abidine Ben Ali, and Libya’s Mu’ammar al- Egypt, and Libya—and in three AsianQadhafi; successful elections in Tunisia; and countries—Burma, Singapore, and Thailand. Itdemocratic ferment throughout the Arab world. should be noted that despite their gains, Burma,Meanwhile, China’s perpetual campaign of Egypt, and Libya remained in the Not Freerepression, directed at writers, lawyers, category. Moreover, while the Middle Eastjournalists, religious believers, ethnic minorities, experienced the most significant improvements,and ordinary citizens who had spoken out it also registered the most declines, with a list ofagainst injustice and state abuses, seemed only worsening countries that includes Bahrain, Iran,to show the staggering fears and weaknesses of a Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arabregime that otherwise presents the image of a Emirates, and Yemen. Declines were also notedconfident, globally integrated economic in a number of countries in Central and Easternpowerhouse. And in Russia, Vladimir Putin Europe and Eurasia, including Albania,faced his first serious political crisis, as election Azerbaijan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.fraud and the prospect of 12 more years withoutnew leadership drew tens of thousands of Among other trends:protesters to the streets. • Glimmers of Hope for the MostWhether the events of 2011 will lead to a true Repressed: Burma, which has rankedwave of democratic revolution is uncertain. alongside North Korea as one of the world’sTunisia was clearly the greatest beneficiary of most closed societies, experienced whatthe year’s changes. It experienced one of the many hope will become a major politicallargest single-year improvements in the history opening. The government of President Theinof the Freedom in the World report, rising from Sein has permitted more public discussion,among the worst-performing Middle Eastern tolerated a measure of press commentary,countries to achieve electoral democracy status freed longtime opposition leader Aung Sanand scores that place it roughly alongside such Suu Kyi, and cleared the path for her party’sPartly Free countries as Colombia and participation in elections. Another countryPhilippines. But much remains to be done, and that endured decades of brutal misrule,there are some questions about the positions of Libya, now has the potential for significantthe new leaders on such crucial issues as gains thanks to the overthrow of al-Qadhafi.minority rights, freedom of belief, and freedom Cuba, also one of the world’s mostof expression. Egypt also made significant gains, repressive countries, experienced a smallbut they have been overshadowed in many improvement linked to the limited reductionrespects by the continued political dominance of of economic restrictions by the governmentthe military, its hostility toward media critics, its of Raúl Castro. Unlike in Burma, however,campaign against human rights organizations, Cuba underwent no political liberalization.and its humiliating treatment of femaleprotesters. In many other Arab countries, • (Some) Good News in Asia: In a regiondemocracy movements have yet to reach even whose dominant power, China, maintainsthe initial milestone of forcing the resignation of the world’s most sophisticated andtheir longtime rulers. The perceived success or comprehensive system of authoritarianfailure of these efforts will either continue to political control, the recent trend has beeninspire similar changes in the rest of the world, largely positive. Aside from theor bolster authoritarian calls for “stability” at improvements in Burma, the past year wasany price. notable for more open and competitive
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONS elections in Singapore, whose unique variant Ukraine, where a series of negative of “guided democracy” has been in place for developments was punctuated by the several decades. In fact, for the countries of conviction of opposition leader Yuliya Asia proper, practically every indicator Tymoshenko on dubious charges. In the past measured by Freedom in the World two years, Ukraine has moved from a status improved to some degree. of Free to Partly Free and suffered deterioration on most indicators measured• Sectarian Strife in the Middle East: The by Freedom House. Developments in intensified violence between Sunni and Turkey are also worrying, given the Shiite Muslims in Iraq as U.S. forces country’s role as a model for democracy in completed their withdrawal touched on a Muslim-majority countries and its broader threat posed by sectarianism to aspirations to regional leadership. While the democracy’s future in the region. government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Differences among various strains of Islam Erdoğan has instituted important reforms complicated the crackdown on mainly Shiite since coming to power, stepped-up arrests of protesters in Bahrain, and played a role in advocates for Kurdish rights and the the crisis in Syria, principally propelled by continued pursuit of the wide-ranging and President Bashar al-Assad’s desperate politically fraught Ergenekon conspiracy efforts to remain in power. Sunni-Shiite case, which has led to lengthy detentions rivalry also presents a serious threat to without charge, are both causes for concern. political stability in Lebanon, while in In Hungary, the government of Prime Egypt, anti-Christian sentiment flared into Minister Viktor Orbán, taking advantage of violence during the year, with notable help a parliamentary supermajority, has pushed from the military. through a new constitution and a raft of laws that could seriously weaken press freedom,• Long-Term Setbacks in Energy-Rich judicial independence, and a fair election Eurasia: The past year featured the process. And in South Africa, new media continuation of a decade-long trend of regulations and evidence of pervasive setbacks for the wealthiest and most corruption within the African National “modern” former Soviet countries: Russia, Congress leadership threaten to undermine Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. The level of the country’s past achievements in peaceful freedom fell further despite rising popular democratic change. demands for reform and warning signs from the Middle East. Indeed, beginning with the Results for 2011 “color revolutions” of 2003 to 05, authoritarians in Eurasia have consistently The number of countries designated by Freedom responded to freedom movements outside in the World as Free in 2011 stood at 87, their borders with intensified clampdowns at representing 45 percent of the world’s 195 home. Year-end protests in Moscow and polities and 3,016,566,100 people—43 percent violent labor unrest in Kazakhstan should of the global population. The number of Free remind the world that repression does not in countries did not change from the previous fact lead to stability. year’s survey.• Danger Signs for New Democracies: Until The number of countries qualifying as Partly recently, Ukraine, Hungary, South Africa, Free stood at 60, or 31 percent of all countries and Turkey were regarded as important assessed by the survey, and they were home to success stories for democratic development. 1,497,442,500 people, or 22 percent of the Now, increasingly, the democratic world’s total. The number of Partly Free credentials of each is coming under countries did not change from the previous year. question. The steepest decline in the institutions of freedom has taken place in A total of 48 countries were deemed Not Free,
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSrepresenting 24 percent of the world’s polities. One country, Nicaragua, was dropped from theThe number of people living under Not Free electoral democracy roster.conditions stood at 2,453,231,500, or 35 percentof the global population, though it is important One country moved from Not Free to Partlyto note that more than half of this number lives Free: Tunisia. One country, The Gambia,in just one country: China. The number of Not dropped from Partly Free to Not Free.Free countries increased by one from 2010 dueto the inclusion for the first time of South Sudan, ANALYSIS OF REGIONAL TRENDSa new state that was given a Not Freedesignation. Middle East and North Africa: The Arab Spring’s Ambiguous Achievements Even in a region that was notorious for its FREE, PARTLY FREE, leaders’ disdain for honest government and civil NOT FREE liberties, Tunisia had long stood out for the thoroughness of its system of control and oppression. Its longtime strongman, Zine el- Freedom in the World applies one of three Abidine Ben Ali, had seemingly smothered all broad category designations to each of the significant sources of opposition. Dissenters had countries and territories included in the been jailed or exiled, press censorship was index: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free. scrupulously enforced, and the judiciary was under strict political control. This country A Free country is one where there is open seemed a highly unlikely setting for a political competition, a climate of respect democratic revolution. for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media. Yet it is Tunisia that has emerged as the most dramatic success story thus far in the series of A Partly Free country is one in which there popular uprisings that took place across the Arab is limited respect for political rights and world during 2011. It has been transformed from civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently a showcase for Arab autocracy to an electoral suffer from an environment of corruption, democracy whose new leaders have pledged weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, themselves to moderation, adherence to civil and a political landscape in which a single liberties, and the rule of law. The press is critical party enjoys dominance despite a certain and vibrant; there are practically no taboo degree of pluralism. subjects. Civil society has proliferated, and elements within the new leadership appear A Not Free country is one where basic committed to tackling the problem of pervasive political rights are absent, and basic civil corruption, though achieving such deep liberties are widely and systematically institutional reforms will likely require many denied. years of effort. For more on how these designations are Some gains were also made in Egypt and Libya, determined, see the Methodology section on but in both of these societies, the future page 33. prospects for democratic reform are still very much in doubt. In Egypt, governing authority shifted from the Mubarak regime to the SupremeThe number of electoral democracies increased Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a groupby two and stands at 117. Three countries of military leaders who have dispensed justiceachieved electoral democracy status due to through military tribunals, engaged in periodicelections that were widely regarded as crackdowns on critical media, raided the officesimprovements: Niger, Thailand, and Tunisia. of civil society organizations, mistreated women
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSactivists, and engaged in violence against that were either introduced in the Knesset orChristians. While a protracted election process, signed into law and were seen by critics asstill under way at year’s end, was conducted threats to freedom of speech. One measure thatwith an adherence to fair practices that stood in was enacted called for punishment of those whovivid contrast to the sham polls of the Mubarak support boycotts against Israel or its institutions,regime, the dominant forces in the new including universities and businesses located inparliament will be Islamist parties whose West Bank settlements.devotion to democracy is open to question. Andwhile Libya has benefited greatly from thedemise of the Qadhafi dictatorship, the countryconfronts an array of daunting political and WORST OF THE WORSTsecurity challenges, and has yet to hold its firstelections. Of the 48 countries designated as Not Free, nine have been given the survey’s lowestIn other regional countries, demands for freedom possible rating of 7 for both political rightshave been met with stepped-up repression. In the and civil liberties. These worst-ratedworst case, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad countries represent a narrow range of systemsresponded to widespread peaceful protests with and cultures. One—North Korea—is a one-a campaign of arrests, torture, and urban party, Marxist-Leninist regime. Two—fusillades that took the lives of an estimated Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—are Central5,000 Syrians by year’s end. In Bahrain, a Asian countries ruled by dictators with rootsprodemocracy movement consisting principally in the Soviet period. Sudan is ruled by aof members of the Shiite majority encountered leadership that has elements of both radicalviolent repression by the monarchy and Islamism and a traditional military junta. Theintervention by the Saudi military. The remaining worst-rated states are Equatorialgovernment’s tactics included mass arrests, Guinea, a highly corrupt regime with one oftorture, and the use of military justice in cases of the worst human rights records in Africa;political activists. In Yemen, security forces Eritrea, an increasingly repressive policeloyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed state; Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchyhundreds of civilians as Saleh repeatedly slipped with severe social controls; Syria, aout of agreements on a transfer of power. The dictatorship in the midst of a bloodyauthorities in Saudi Arabia intensified their crackdown; and Somalia, a failed state. Thepersecution of Shiites and other Muslim sects, two worst-rated territories in the survey arewhile Iran escalated its persecution of Tibet—under Chinese jurisdiction—andnongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and Western Sahara, which is controlled bycivic leaders who were critical of regime Morocco.actions. Lebanon suffered a decline in civilliberties due to the violent treatment of An additional 8 countries and territoriesprotesters and punitive measures against those received scores that were slightly above thosedemanding regime change in neighboring Syria. of the worst-ranked countries, with ratings ofThe United Arab Emirates also experienced a 6,7 or 7,6 for political rights and civilcivil liberties decline after the government liberties: Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba,tightened restrictions on free speech and civil Laos, Libya, and South Ossetia.society and arrested those calling for politicalchange. Asia-Pacific: Important Gains, Despite ChinaIsrael’s relations with Palestinians in the West and ConflictBank and Gaza Strip, and with other countries inthe region, worsened as the year’s tumult raised Over the past five years, the Asia-Pacific regionexpectations and shook old assumptions. Israel has been the only one to record steady gains inalso faced condemnation for a series of measures the majority of indicators that are measured by
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSFreedom in the World. Progress is especially largest democracy, showed increased room fornoteworthy in the countries of Asia proper, peaceful demonstrations, particularly with theexcluding the small Pacific island nations. The rise of an anticorruption movement that broughtmost impressive gains have come in the tens of thousands of people to the streets. Indian-institutions of electoral democracy—elections, administered Kashmir experienced a notablepolitical parties, pluralism—and in freedom of improvement in the space for open publicassociation. discussion amid growing use of social media and a drop in violence.The embrace of free institutions has taken placein the face of significant regional obstacles, The most significant gain occurred in Burma,including, most notably, the influence of China. which had endured decades of politicalIn recent years China has accelerated its efforts repression under a military junta. Whatto project its power beyond its borders, and its observers interpreted as a major politicalAsian neighbors have been important targets of opening was initiated during 2011. In a series ofthis effort. Despite several incidents in which steps toward a more liberal domesticcritics of the Chinese government and exiled environment, the leadership allowed oppositionChinese minorities encountered repression in leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party,Nepal, Indonesia, and Vietnam, the allure of the the National League for Democracy, to registerso-called China model—combining state-led and compete in forthcoming by-elections, easedeconomic growth, a Leninist one-party political press censorship, and legalized politicalsystem, and strict control over the media—has protest. At the same time, many cautioned that itgained only modest traction in the region. was still unclear whether the changes in BurmaMeanwhile, the Chinese leadership has were durable or simply cosmetic improvementsdemonstrated no serious interest in political by the regime. In Singapore, the system ofliberalization at home, and has devoted managed democracy engineered by the formerimpressive resources to internet censorship, the prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was loosened,suppression of minorities, and the elimination of and opposition candidates gained populareven oblique political dissent. In 2011, the support in national elections, though the systemauthorities carried out a major campaign of ensured that this did not translate intorepression in the wake of the Arab uprisings by significantly increased representation in thecensoring public discussion of the movement for parliament. Conditions also improved inArab democratization, prosecuting or arbitrarily Thailand, whose deeply polarized political lifedetaining scores of social-media commentators had been dominated by riots and cripplingand human rights lawyers, and strengthening the demonstrations for several years. A July electiononline censorship of domestic social-networking led to a peaceful transfer of power to theservices. opposition party and the installation as prime minister of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister ofAnother regional challenge is the explosion of controversial former prime minister Thaksincivil and sectarian strife in South Asia. In Shinawatra. However, there has been someAfghanistan, violence continued unabated in backsliding on civil liberties since the end of2011, with high-profile political assassinations November.and high civilian casualty rates. In Pakistan,there was growing discord over enforcement of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia:the country’s blasphemy laws, punctuated by the Stability and Stagnationmurders of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer andShahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, The protests that roiled Moscow and otherboth of whom had criticized the blasphemy Russian cities in the wake of deeply flawedstatutes. Bangladesh also suffered a decline due December parliamentary elections were starkto the ruling Awami League’s prosecution of reminders that no authoritarian leadership, noopposition politicians and efforts to muzzle matter how sophisticated its methods, is immuneNGOs. On the other hand, India, the world’s to popular demands for change. While the
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSimmediate trigger for the mass demonstrations criticism for his apparent efforts to marginalizewere widely circulated YouTube videos that potential opposition figures.suggested ballot-stuffing and other forms ofelection fraud, the protests also reflected Meanwhile, in several cases, the region’s mostdispleasure with the earlier announcement that repressive regimes declined still further. InPrime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Azerbaijan, the government of President IlhamDmitry Medvedev had forged an agreement to Aliyev used force to break up demonstrations,swap positions at the end of Medvedev’s term in jailed opposition activists, tried to neutralize the2012. The two men had failed to fulfill long- international press, and misused state power tostanding promises to reform Russia’s corrupt, evict citizens from their homes as part ofstagnant, and unresponsive government system, grandiose building schemes. Kazakhstanand the idea of Putin’s return for a third and suffered a decline due to the adoption ofpossibly fourth presidential term helped drive legislation that restricted religious belief. Inordinary Russians to the unprecedented December, conditions deteriorated further whendemonstrations. the regime used violence in an effort to put down labor protests by oil workers. And inThere are many questions about the ability of the Belarus, the regime of President Alyaksandrforces that led the postelection protests to Lukashenka held scores of political prisonersinfluence future politics in Russia. But clearly and adopted a series of bizarre policies—such asRussia is not alone in its vulnerability to popular outlawing public clapping in unison—to preventdiscontent with authoritarian leadership. As the creative expressions of popular discontent over20th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s political repression and economic decline.disintegration was marked at year’s end, mostEurasian countries were still subject to For most of Central and Eastern Europe and theautocratic rule of one variant or another. Baltics, by contrast, the year was notable for theWhereas prior to 2011 the “president for life” ability of most countries to weather thephenomenon was principally associated with the European economic crisis without major damageMiddle East, it is today more likely to apply to to the basic institutions of democracy. At thethe long-term leaders of the former Soviet same time, a number of countries in the regionUnion. remained highly vulnerable to precarious economies, the merging of business and politicalThe authoritarian temptation poses a threat even interests, and corruption. Latvia, Bulgaria,in countries with recent histories of free- Romania, and the Western Balkans could facewheeling democracy. Thus Ukraine suffered a problems as Europe’s economic woes persist.major decline due to President ViktorYanukovych’s moves to crush the political Hungary poses the most serious problem inopposition through a variety of antidemocratic Central Europe. The government of Viktortactics, including the prosecution of opposition Orbán has taken advantage of a two-thirdspolitical leader and former prime minister parliamentary majority to push through a newYuliya Tymoshenko. Other “color revolution” and problematic constitution without adequatecountries also faced problems. Kyrgyzstan, input from the opposition, and a series of lawsrecovering from a 2010 revolt against an that are widely seen as threats to press freedom,authoritarian president, held national elections judicial independence, and political pluralism.that were judged to be relatively fair and Albania experienced declines due to violencecompetitive. Nevertheless, deep divisions against demonstrators, flawed municipallingered between the majority Kyrgyz and elections, and the failure of the courts to dealminority Uzbeks, and little progress was made in effectively with major corruption cases. On thebringing to justice those responsible for anti- positive side, Slovakia was credited for havingUzbek violence in mid-2010. In Georgia, adopted legislation designed to shield the pressPresident Mikheil Saakashvili continued to face from political intimidation.
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSThe Balkans achieved mixed progress on theroad to democratization and European Union(EU) accession. In July, Serbia’s government LARGEST NET CHANGES IN TOTALfinally surrendered the last of the 161 suspected AGGREGATE SCORE, 2007–2011war criminals indicted by the InternationalCriminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Declines Improvementsincluding Ratko Mladić, a leading figure in the1995 Srebrenica massacre who had evaded The Gambia -24 Tunisia 35arrest for 16 years. Mladić’s extradition metwith disapproval from over 50 percent of Madagascar -19 Maldives 20Serbia’s population, triggering sizeable protests. Mauritania -19 Bangladesh 18Nationalism in much of the Balkan regioncontinues to undermine regional reconciliation Bahrain -17 Pakistan 17efforts and complicate relations with theEU. Pressures on free media increased across the Ethiopia -14 Tonga 16Balkans, particularly in Macedonia, where an Nicaragua -13 Thailand 13opposition-oriented television station andseveral newspapers were harassed and closed. Ukraine -13 Burma 11Sub-Saharan Africa: Civil Society Under Afghanistan -11 Egypt 10Pressure Yemen -11 Libya 9A decade ago, sub-Saharan Africa was notable Burundi -10 Bhutan 9for the steady if sometimes halting progress thatits societies were making toward theestablishment of democratic institutions. In This table shows the countries with therecent years, however, that progress has first largest net gains or losses in total aggregatestalled and then been somewhat reversed. The score (0–100) between Freedom in theyear 2011 gave evidence of moderate decline, World 2008 and Freedom in the Worldwith particular problems in countries where 2012.members of the opposition and civil societymade pleas for change in emulation of protests See page 14 for these countries’ currentin the Arab world. status and ratings.Five of the 10 countries that registered the mostsignificant declines in the Freedom in the World the political opposition, the media, and civilreport over the two-year period from 2010 to society in the run-up to the vote.2011 were in Africa: The Gambia, Ethiopia,Burundi, Rwanda, and Djibouti. Likewise, over Five other regional countries experiencedthe five-year period from 2007 through 2011, declines for the year. Ethiopia continued aAfrica as a region has exhibited declines in each decade-long trend of growing authoritarianism,of the topical subcategories measured by with the government of Prime Minister MelesFreedom in the World. Particularly substantial Zenawi making increased use of antiterrorismdeclines were recorded for rule of law and laws against the political opposition andfreedom of association. journalists. In Sudan, the administration of President Omar al-Bashir engaged in stepped-upThe Gambia experienced the most notable arrests of opposition leaders, banned a leadingdecline over the past year. Its status moved from political party, used violent tactics againstPartly Free to Not Free due to a presidential demonstrators, and persecuted the media. Inelection that was judged neither free nor fair, Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni crackedand President Yahya Jammeh’s suppression of down on critical members of the press in a year
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSthat also featured flawed national elections, critics, the government’s use of state resourcesrepressive tactics against protesters, and to influence the outcome of a referendum, and acontinued harassment of the gay community. restructuring of the judiciary that was in blatantMalawi witnessed pressure against journalists violation of constitutional provisions.and violence against protesters as well asviolations of academic freedom. Chávez himself was preoccupied with medicalAntigovernment protests were also met with treatment, mostly carried out under less-than-repressive tactics in Djibouti, where the transparent conditions in Cuba, reportedly forintimidation of opposition political parties was prostate cancer. Chávez has announced that hefollowed by the election of President Ismail will seek reelection in 2012, but the campaignOmar Guelleh to a third term in office. promises to be more competitive than in the past due to the apparent unity of the opposition.Two countries with recent histories of politicalupheaval registered gains. Conditions in Côte Violent crime, much of it generated by drug-d’Ivoire improved somewhat after Alassane trafficking groups, continued to plague societiesOuattara assumed the presidency, ending months throughout the region, causing ripple effects inof civil strife associated with incumbent the political system and contributing to apresident Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to surrender growing trend toward the militarization of policepower despite his defeat in 2010 elections. work. In Mexico, government institutionsGbagbo was later turned over to the remained unable to protect ordinary citizens,International Criminal Court for prosecution. journalists, and elected officials in many areasNiger experienced a major improvement in its from organized crime. Mexican journalism inpolitical rights rating due to credible national certain regions remains shackled by drug-gangand local elections that marked the end of more intimidation, with some editors significantlythan a year of military rule. altering coverage to avoid violent repercussions. In Venezuela, the kidnapping for ransom ofAmericas: Continuity Despite Populist Threat professional baseball catcher Wilson Ramos stood out as a vivid reminder of the violentOver the past decade, left-wing populist leaders criminality that more commonly affects thehave risen to power in a number of Latin population at large. In Brazil, the government’sAmerican countries, causing some to predict that efforts to bring down crime in the most troubledthe authoritarian model established by urban districts in advance of the 2014 WorldVenezuela’s President Hugo Chávez would Cup soccer tournament have been met bycome to dominate the politics of the region. In determined resistance from organized gangs.fact, authoritarian populism has remained aminority phenomenon, as most societies have In other developments, Guatemala registered anembraced the model of private-sector growth, improvement in political rights due to progresssocial-welfare initiatives, and adherence to made by an international commission set up todemocratic standards established by leaders in investigate impunity and corruption in theBrazil, Chile, and Mexico. country’s institutions. Puerto Rico suffered a civil liberties decline stemming from reports ofNevertheless, events in 2011 demonstrated that widespread police misconduct and brutality.quasi-authoritarian populism still stands as athreat to the region’s political stability. In the Western Europe and North America:most serious case, Nicaragua suffered a steep Economic Crisis, Protests, and Civil Libertiesdecline in political rights due to irregularities inadvance of and during the presidential election, In the face of the most serious economic crisis inwhich gave Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega the postwar period, the countries of Westernanother term in office. Likewise, Ecuador Europe and North America maintained theirsuffered a decline due to President Rafael traditionally high level of respect for democraticCorrea’s intensified campaign against media standards and civil liberties. This was even the
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONScase in countries that were compelled to make finds offensive. In 2011, women in France andmajor cuts to social-welfare provisions in Belgium were arrested in cases related to theresponse to high levels of indebtedness. wearing of ultraconservative Muslim femaleThroughout Europe, citizens mounted massive attire.demonstrations to protest policies, often dictatedby the EU and the International Monetary Fund, Also during the year, observers raised doubtsthat called for fiscal austerity and the removal of about the durability of the current Turkishvarious protections for many workers and political model, in which a ruling party withindustries. By and large, the demonstrations moderate Islamist roots has committed itself towere peaceful and the police response the norms of liberal democracy. While thenonviolent. The exception was Greece, where Justice and Development Party (AKP) wasanarchists frequently set fires and threw credited with instituting important reformsprojectiles at police, and the police responded during its early years in power, its recentwith batons and tear gas. behavior has triggered concern among supporters of press freedom and civil liberties.It is unlikely that Europe’s democratic standards In the past few years, thousands of people havewill suffer serious setbacks in the wake of the been arrested on charges of involvement withongoing debt crisis. Nonetheless, the region does Kurdish terrorist organizations or participationface major challenges. A number of European in an alleged military conspiracy to overthrowcountries are already confronted by problems the government. Those detained includeassociated with the influx of immigrants from journalists, scholars, and even defense lawyers.the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and haveshown little willingness to devise rational and Britain was rocked first by a series of urbanhumane policies toward their integration. riots, which many felt were handled poorly byEconomic decline could well exacerbate the authorities, and then by a “phone hacking”polarization over immigration policy, as case in which members of the tabloid press weremigrants seek refuge from upheavals in the Arab accused of widespread abuse of privacy rights inworld and unemployment levels in some pursuit of sensationalistic stories aboutEuropean countries are at record levels. Until celebrities and, most controversially, crimerecently a marginal phenomenon, the parties of victims. At the same time, the coalitionthe anti-immigrant right emerged as major government of Conservatives and Liberalforces in Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, France, Democrats indicated that a law aimed atFinland, and the Netherlands during the past reforming the country’s punitive libel lawsdecade, and they occasionally achieve voter would be introduced in 2012. The measure issupport of over 20 percent. meant to deal with the phenomenon of “libel tourism,” in which foreign individuals use theMany European countries have opted for plaintiff-friendly English courts to press libelpolicies that restrict future immigration and, in suits against critical journalists and scholars. Ifsome instances, asylum applications. A growing adopted, the new law would place the burden ofnumber have taken steps to curtail customs proof on the plaintiff rather than the defense inidentified with Islam that much of the population libel cases. Press freedom advocates have REGIONAL PATTERNS Free Partly Free Not Free Americas 24 (69%) 10 (28%) 1 (3%) Asia-Pacific 16 (41%) 15 (38%) 8 (21%) Central and Eastern Europe/Eurasia 13 (45%) 9 (31%) 7 (24%) Middle East and North Africa 1 (6%) 4 (22%) 13 (72%) Sub-Saharan Africa 9 (18%) 21 (43%) 19 (39%) Western Europe 24 (96%) 1 (4%) 0 (0%)
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSdescribed Britain’s current libel laws as a serious were Egyptian; a few were international groupsmenace to intellectual inquiry and the robust (Freedom House was one of the latter). Theexchange of ideas. authorities were insistent that the raids, which included the seizure of files and computers, wereThe United States endured a year of deep legal and technical in nature. Governmentpolitical polarization and legislative gridlock. officials emphasized and reemphasized that theyDespite the efforts of a bipartisan commission believed human rights organizations had a roleand a select committee of lawmakers drawn to play in a democratic Egypt. Their actionsequally from both major parties, the legislative indicated otherwise.branch and the White House were unable toreach agreement on a plan to reduce the federal In fact, the behavior of the Egyptian authorities,deficit to manageable levels. Even as Congress now and under Mubarak, reflects a deep-seatedand the president failed to agree on key hostility to NGOs that support democracy andeconomic measures, left-wing critics of the human rights. This in turn points to a broadercountry’s wealth disparities and ties between institutional continuity between the currentpolitics and big business came together to launch Egyptian state and the old regime that willthe Occupy Wall Street movement. Beginning present major obstacles to democraticwith an encampment near the financial district in development in the coming months and years,New York City, the Occupy movement spread to and similar dynamics may play out in othercities across the country, with protesters countries where authoritarian rule is beingcamping out in parks or other public spaces for defied.indefinite periods. After several months,municipal authorities moved to evict the There were many heroes, many casualties, andprotesters, often through peaceful police actions many martyrs to freedom’s cause in 2011. Therebut in some cases using batons, tear gas, pepper were also many extraordinary achievements.spray, and arrests. Some observers voiced Authoritarians who aspired to rule in perpetuitycriticism of the police for employing were toppled in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, andconfrontational tactics and military-style autocratic heads of state in Yemen and Syriaequipment when dealing with protesters. seem likely to follow. But unlike in communist Eastern Europe in 1989, today’s oppressiveIn fulfillment of a pledge made during his leaders have for the most part refused to goelection campaign, President Barack Obama quietly, without a fight. Some have adopted arevoked the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t rule or ruin strategy that threatens to condemntell,” under which military personnel were not those who would supplant them to failure.asked about their sexual orientation, but openlygay and lesbian individuals were barred from Indeed, one of the great disappointments of themilitary service. In another step toward Arab Spring is that its principal lesson—thatobservance of homosexual rights, the state of people will eventually rise up against despotismNew York legalized gay marriage through and injustice—has been almost universallylegislative action, joining a small number of rejected by the world’s authoritarian powers.other states that allow same-sex marriage or civil Rather than responding to popular demands forunions. freedom with, at minimum, a gradual plan of moderate reforms, despots in the Middle EastCONCLUSION and elsewhere have either tightened the screws or flatly excluded changes to the status quo.Winning Freedom, Sustaining Democracy China fell into the first category with its frenzied campaign against political dissent. So too didAs 2011 drew to a close, officials in Egypt made Bashar al-Assad in Syria, with his repudiation ofheadlines by conducting a series of raids on talks with the opposition and a murderousNGOs that monitor human rights and promote campaign against peaceful protesters across thedemocracy. Most of the targeted organizations country. Russia was front and center in the status
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSquo camp, with its imposed Putin-Medvedev in the NATO campaign that helped Libyanleadership swap and shameless election-day rebels overthrow the Qadhafi regime.violations. On the positive side, the Obama administrationClearly, constructing successful democratic has evolved from its early discomfort withstates in the Middle East and elsewhere democracy as a foreign policy theme to arepresents a far more formidable challenge than position where it episodically places its words,was the case in Europe after the Berlin Wall and in a few cases policy muscle, behindcame down. Adding to the difficulty is the role struggles for freedom abroad. Despite theof China and Russia, both major economic unfortunate characterization that it was “leadingpowers and permanent members of the UN from behind,” America’s firmness in assistingSecurity Council whose political elites have a NATO’s Libyan campaign was an importantstake in the failure of new and aspiring step. After initial hesitation, the administrationdemocracies. There is reason to believe that the has also cautiously supported the process ofinfluence of these two powers could become building democratic systems in Tunisia, Egypt,magnified in the near future. As the European and Libya. At the same time, it has too oftendebt crisis deepened in 2011, there were been hesitant in speaking out againstwidespread reports that EU leaders were looking antidemocratic backsliding, particularly into Beijing for bailout assistance. Likewise, the Egypt. President Obama himself has madeRussian president traveled to several European several important statements about America’scapitals with a package of economic deals commitment to democratic change around thedesigned to help the beleaguered region in its world, but he has failed to invoke the authoritytime of need, with strings attached. Ultimately, of the White House on specific cases. Instead itChina seems to have rejected serious is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who hasinvolvement in Europe’s woes, and nothing of publicly addressed violations of human rights insignificance materialized from Medvedev’s Russia, Hungary, and Turkey, and aligned theinitiative. But the very fact that the world’s most administration with the forces of change insuccessful league of democracies would Burma and elsewhere where prospects forcountenance involving two of the world’s great freedom’s growth have opened up.authoritarian powers in its financial rescue is achilling commentary on the current state of both If the past year has demonstrated that couragethe global economy and the democratic world’s and sacrifice are essential to the achievement ofpolitical morality, not to mention its survival freedom, a somewhat different set ofinstincts. characteristics are required to build the democratic infrastructure that will ensure long-What of the United States? Can it be relied on to term observance of political rights and civilstand as the international beacon of freedom liberties. These characteristics include the self-given its present economic torpor and political confidence needed to accept the complexities,gridlock? American politics have sent and occasionally irresponsibility, of a free press;conflicting signals over the past year. The notion the fortitude to impose restrictions on oneself asthat it is time for America to shrug off its global well as on one’s political opponents as part ofcommitments has been increasingly posited by the fight against corruption; and the perspicacityforeign policy analysts and some political to accept that the judiciary, police, and otherfigures. A prominent candidate for the critical institutions must function withoutRepublican presidential nomination has put political interference.himself squarely in favor of backing away fromthe world’s problems, saying the United States In far too many parts of the world, theseshould simply “mind its own business.” Leading qualities proved to be in short supply duringfigures from both major political parties 2011. Thus in addition to singling out the full-criticized the Obama administration for its role fledged authoritarians for special attention, it is
FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2012: THE ARAB UPRISINGS AND THEIR GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONSimperative to shine the spotlight on leaders who,having come to power through legitimatedemocratic means, have set about systematicallyundermining the aspects of freedom that theyfind inconvenient. The temptation to create aquasi-authoritarian regime, in which standardsthat reinforce the leader’s authority areembraced and those that complicate his goals aredispensed with, can have disastrousconsequences for democracies with shallowroots. Prosecuting an opposition leader orclosing a television station can be the first stepsdown a slippery slope, as witnessed in thecareers of Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chávez,both of whom dragged seriously flawed politicalsystems into new depths of dysfunction andstagnation.Still, while the year 2010 ended on a pessimisticnote, with authoritarianism seemingly on themarch, the events of 2011 have presented morehopeful prospects. Unaccountable andoppressive rulers have been put on notice thattheir actions will not be tolerated forever. Theyear of Arab uprisings has reminded the worldthat ordinary people want freedom even insocieties where such aspirations have beenwritten off as futile. This is a lesson to which theworld’s leading democracies, especially theUnited States, should pay special heed. It shoulddispel free societies’ persistent doubts about thestrength and universal appeal of their institutionsand values. The opportunities that have beenopened up by brave people in Tunis and Cairoshould prompt a reenergized democratic worldto address the twin challenges of howdictatorships can be overturned, and how stableand durable fellow democracies can be built intheir place.Eliza B. Young and Tyler Roylance assisted inthe preparation of this report.