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Russia's Media Freedom Rating Goes Up One Point

Source: (info), 02/05/12

· Freedom of expression

In 2011, for the first time in eight years, freedom of expression in Russia did not get worse. According to the Freedom House annual report issued on 1 May 2012, Russia ranks 172nd, jointly with Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, an improvement of one point compared with the previous year.

The organisation's experts have included Russia among unfree countries. In their estimation the improvement in the situation in Russia is related to the increase in the number of satellite TV and Internet users, including social networks, the reported, citing RIA Novosti.

The United States, a country the organisation has invariably ranked as free, went down in 2011 from 17th to 22nd place, which it shared with Estonia and Jamaica. Freedom House experts link the deterioration in the US to the complex economic situation in the country that has, among other things, affected the state of independent media.

As in the previous year, the top three countries were Finland, Norway and Sweden, while Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and North Korea were at the bottom of the scale, ranking 195th, 196th and 197th respectively. The human rights organisation has included Belarus among the worst countries, at 193rd place, between Iran and Eritrea.

In January the Freedom House annual report again listed Russia among unfree countries while pointing out that civil rights fared somewhat better than political rights. Russia scored 5-6 points on the unfree countries scale, a rating analogous to that of Rwanda, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Gabon and the West Bank, which the UN regards as occupied territory. On the Freedom House scale countries are ranked 1 to 7 from best to worst.

The human rights organisation noted a wave of unprecedented protests against electoral fraud in the State Duma election. It regards the mass street protests in Russia as a sign of the declining popularity of the country's leaders who have failed to curb corruption and to carry out modernisation. "A number of questions arise regarding the extent to which the forces leading the post-election protests can influence Russia's future policies. However, it is clear that Russia is not alone in the large-scale rejection of authoritarian rule," the report states.

According to the Freedom House report 87 countries can be regarded as free. The organisation has noted a trend towards harsher regimes in the Middle East, China, Eurasia and Africa, affecting 26 countries across the world. A curbing of civil liberties has been noted in two post-Soviet countries, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Even a number of new democracies -- Ukraine, Hungary and South Africa -- have moved away from Western ideals.

RIA Novosti pointed out that over the past two years Ukraine has migrated from the free countries category to that of the partly free, the negative trend being ascribable mainly to the criminal prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the charges against whom Freedom House described as "dubious".