A report released January 16 by the civil rights group Freedom House laments that global democratization is in retreat after suffering "a notable setback" in 2007. The Freedom House survey ranked two Central Asian nations, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as among the "worst of the worst" when it comes to government repression of individual rights. It also lambasted Russia for conducting "patently unfair" parliamentary elections, and for providing "political, moral and material support to [Central Asian] authoritiarians."
The title of the annual Freedom in the World survey, Freedom in Retreat: Is the Tide Turning?, conveyed a strong sense of unease about the near-term future of civil society development in the world.
"For the past few years, and especially since Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, a number of the world's most important autocracies have engaged in what has been called a pushback against democracy promotion," the report asserted. "The pushback differs from past strategies of repressive regimes in that it relies on the use of legal restrictions, tax investigations, bureaucratic regulations and the like to neutralize opposition political parties and civil society organizations that seek political change."
The report, which has been published annually since 1972, rates countries as
Deirdre Tynan is a freelance journalist who specializes in Central Asian affairs.