Taiwan: Praise For Political Rights
Below is an article published by ETaiwainNews.com
Taiwan earned the highest score for its political rights and the second highest score for its civil liberties in the 2009 "Freedom of the World" survey released in Taipei Tuesday [13 January 2009] by the U.S.-based international human rights organization Freedom House.
Maintaining its 2008 classification as one of the world's "free" countries, Taiwan was given the highest possible score of "1" in the political rights category and a "2" in civil liberties, while China, classified in the "Not Free" category, scored a "7" in political rights and "6" in civil liberties, on a scale of 1 to 7, according to the report findings.
A rating of 1 indicates the highest degree of freedom and 7 the least amount of freedom.
According to the Freedom House, Taiwan was chosen as the host for this year's release because the country holds a strategic position in Asia, not only geographically and economically, but also as one of its most vibrant democracies.
Published since 1972, "Freedom in the World” is an important publication that provides an assessment of political rights and civil liberties in every country worldwide and a number of important territories, according to the organization. The report analyzes each country based on a number of specific issues that determine the country's freedom status – either “free”, “partly free” or “not free.” Overall, Finland was ranked as the world's freest country among the 193 countries and 16 strategic territories surveyed, while North Korea was rated as the least-free country, the report said.
Speaking at a press conference in Taipei to launch the report, Freedom House Director of Studies Christopher Walker said that 89 countries were placed into the “free” category, 62 classified in the “partly free” category, while the remaining 42 nations were listed in the “not free” category.
He stressed that his organization observed more negative developments in freedom than positive ones over the past year, with 34 countries registering declines as opposed to 14 making headways.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, Walker pointed out that a significant decline in freedom had been observed, and described 2008 as a year of “substantial reversals” for nearly one quarter of the region's countries, including Zimbabwe, Burundi, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Two other African countries even fell to a lower tier due to a decline in scores, Walker said, naming Mauritania, which moved from the “partly free” to “not free” category, and Senegal, which dropped from “free ” to “partly free.” One other country that saw a downward status change is Afghanistan, which moved from “partly free to “not free,” he added.
Two European Union countries -- Italy and Greece -- also experienced modest declines, noted Walker.
Walker said that Freedom House found from the report this year two “broader trends of concerns.” For example, in some European countries which he described as “already very repressive environments, ”even harder pushes to restrict press freedom, civil society and non-governmental organizations have been used by the authorities.
The methods by which these authorities have looked to circumscribe democratic activities have meanwhile become more subtle, comprehensive or even sophisticated, Walker said.
Instead of the more customary methods for suppressing participation by the opposition in political parties or civil societies, Walker said that the use of legal tools such as tax inspections and bureaucratic regulations have been adopted.
On the positive side, Walker made particular mention of“ significant progress” which occurred in South Asia, with three countries in the region, Pakistan, Maldives and Bhutan, moving from the “not free” category to “partly free” grouping.
Also, although still listed as a “not free” country, Iraq is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa region to show improvement because of reductions in violence, political terror and government-sponsored Shi'a militias.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bangladesh, meanwhile, became electoral democracies, in which people have the right to vote.
In addition, Central and Eastern European countries also made steady progress, whereas countries to their east have instead headed in a negative direction in terms of development of freedoms, Walker added.