The report reveals that Serbia is not a free country and that Russia is on the verge of a point decline. The report also highlights countries to watch throughout 2018: Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq. According to the organization, repression in these countries is the main reason for the drop. Despite their positive points, these countries still pose serious threats to human rights.
Serbia received lower marks than in 2020 in the areas of media independence, the fight against corruption and the atmosphere in which civil society operates
- 1 Serbia received lower marks than in 2020 in the areas of media independence, the fight against corruption and the atmosphere in which civil society operates
- 2 Russia’s point decline is due to repression
- 3 Iraq and Afghanistan are countries to watch throughout 2018
- 4 Nicaragua is a country to watch
- 5 Nicaragua has a consistent pattern of partisan bias against conservative parties
Serbia’s media remain highly dependent on advertising, and a third to 40% of their budget is allocated to public services, which makes their accountability and independence difficult to gauge. Allocation of advertising funds to media outlets is also largely opaque and politicised, and there is no independent body to monitor the process. As a result, the media often fail to provide a critical analysis of governmental actions, and they are vulnerable to political interference, both directly and indirectly.
The overall atmosphere for representatives of civil society has deteriorated since 2020, with more attacks and intimidation against journalists. While the number of attacks against media outlets was lower in 2021, it was still higher than in 2020. The government’s implementation of the Media Strategy was not enough to improve the overall climate. As a result, the government needs to improve systematic cooperation with civil society to create an enabling environment for such organisations.
While Serbia received lower marks than in 2020 in the three key areas of media independence, the fight against corruption, and the atmosphere in which civil society operates, the government’s record on these issues has been improving in recent years. The European Commission has noted that the country has taken action to combat corruption and restore media freedom. In addition, the country is implementing new laws aimed at protecting media freedom.
The political system in Serbia is highly politicized, and one party dominates the national and provincial level, as well as most local government units. In addition to this, the atmosphere for local civil society is hostile and they face frequent attacks by ruling party representatives and institutional pressure. Moreover, the media’s independence continues to deteriorate under state-owned Telekom Srbija.
Russia’s point decline is due to repression
Repression has been a major factor in Russia’s point decline in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report. Under President Vladimir Putin, power lies concentrated in the hands of a few loyal officials. There is a weak judiciary and a tightly controlled media. Meanwhile, the legislature is dominated by the ruling party and pliable opposition factions. The government manipulates elections and is rife with corruption.
The return of Alexei Navalny triggered a new wave of political repression and targeted sanctions. The use of coercion to suppress political opposition has little legitimacy and comes at a cost in reputation and governmental resources. Moreover, the vaccination campaign has eroded political support and public trust. Many people are reluctant to get the vaccine because of the side effects, and it has led to a decline in trust in political institutions. In addition, the country’s economy is suffering from growing inflation and deteriorating wages.
Despite this point decline, Belarus had a brief bright spot in August, when citizens disputed fraudulent election results. The government repressed the protests, putting Alyaksandr Lukashenka on the defensive. The protests continued, though, and mass arrests and torture were reported. Despite the protests, Lukashenka remained in power until 2021. Although the protests triggered the emergence of a new government, democracy is still a distant dream in Belarus.
Transnational repression, including the use of surveillance technology, is becoming more common and “normal.” According to Freedom House’s Transnational Repression Index, repression is a global phenomenon, involving governments across the globe. Countries like Algeria, Belarus, and Nigeria have been added to the list in 2021. These countries engage in a wide range of repression campaigns. These countries engage in practices ranging from spying to renditions.
Iraq and Afghanistan are countries to watch throughout 2018
Journalists in these countries continue to face threats from the Taliban, IS militant groups, and government figures. Restraints on freedom of expression are justified by the need to prevent incitement to terrorism. In Afghanistan, for example, live television coverage of terrorist attacks has been banned. This limits the ability of journalists on the ground to report on what is happening.
In Iraq, the political system is being distorted by the influence of foreign powers. Iran threatens those who challenge its interests, and the Fatah alliance, representing Iran-backed militias, is not following the official command structure of the Iraqi armed forces. However, in Afghanistan, the Islamic State did not suppress normal political activity. These factors make it important for the U.S. to monitor these countries in 2018.
In Afghanistan, while the constitution prohibits forced labor, debt bondage remains a major issue. Child labor is also widespread, particularly in the carpet industry. Most victims of human trafficking are children who are trafficked internally or employed as domestic servants. Many of these victims face sexual exploitation, and many are also vulnerable to recruitment into militant groups or government security forces.
Corruption at the highest level continues to hamper the work of NGOs in both countries. In Afghanistan, armed groups continue to threaten organizations working to help people. For example, a Taliban-claimed attack on US-based NGO Counterpart International in Kabul in November killed five people. Meanwhile, an American working with the United Nations in Afghanistan was killed in a grenade attack on a UN-marked vehicle. In addition, peacekeepers from Japan Medical Services were attacked in Nangarhar in December.
Nicaragua is a country to watch
While the Nicaraguan government has largely complied with international human rights standards, it has been slow to address some pressing human rights issues. Despite some improvements, the government continues to repress political opponents. The government has banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. And it has targeted the LGBT community with threats. Despite a 2014 resolution prohibiting discrimination against same-sex couples in health care, little progress has been made towards its implementation.
The Ortega administration has repressed the rights of prominent opposition figures, including human rights defenders. Since April 2018, several human rights defenders and leaders of civil society organizations have been harassed. The country’s police are among the best in the region, but they have been under fire for shooting protesters. In October 2018, police detained two indigenous activists who were on a flight to Managua. At the time, there were no formal charges filed against them.
Nicaragua’s government has also been cracking down on religious practice and protest. In April 2018, the Ortega regime violently suppressed demonstrations and turned on opponents of social security reforms. As a result, over 355 people were killed. Meanwhile, over 190 political prisoners remain in jail.
Nicaragua’s constitution guarantees the right to vote. Elections are held every five years. In 2014, the National Assembly approved a number of constitutional amendments. This included the elimination of term limits and the requirement that the winner receive a simple majority of votes. Since 2006, Daniel Ortega has been the president. However, his 2016 reelection was the result of a rigged poll, which was manipulated by Ortega’s allies. Ortega’s wife was also reelected as vice president.
The Ortega government has also weakened the political opposition in the country. Despite these setbacks, the FSLN has maintained a tight grip on power. In the 2016 parliamentary elections, the Supreme Court stripped the main opposition candidate of his party leadership. It also forced 16 opposition lawmakers to step down. As a result, the opposition will likely lose the November elections. However, Ortega has high approval ratings, and his government has implemented many popular social programs.
Nicaragua has a consistent pattern of partisan bias against conservative parties
Nicaragua’s constitution allows for a direct election of the president, with elections held every five years. In 2014, the Constitution was amended to eliminate term limits and require the winner to secure a simple majority of votes. President Daniel Ortega has been in office since 2006 and his reelection in 2016 was controversial. Ortega was re-elected on the basis of a poll that was rigged by his allies. His wife, meanwhile, won reelection to the vice presidency.
Nicaragua has made some progress in its effort to protect its citizens. In 2003, the human rights ombudsman published a report highlighting 77 cases of police arbitrary detentions. However, few police officers were prosecuted, suggesting a high level of impunity.
The government has used a strong economic performance as cover for authoritarian tendencies. The country’s economy grew by 2.7% last year, and the poverty rate dropped slightly. The government also received a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2019 to fund its reforms and the country has an increasingly market-oriented environment.
Freedom House has a board of directors that consists of prominent business leaders, former government officials, scholars, writers, and journalists. The organization has offices in several countries, and promotes local non-government organizations and human rights workers. Despite this, Freedom House does not take the positions of conservative parties. This is a problem for conservatives. The group is biased against conservatives and the conservative movement, and is a partisan group that merely promotes the left-wing agenda.
While Nicaragua’s 1987 constitution bans almost all forms of discrimination, the government has given little attention to women’s rights. Its official Institute for Women has a tiny budget.
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