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World | National

No news, no polls: Countries with poor human rights record

Reuters file photo
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - You could be complaining about the trash news on TV or the dynastic politicians who always join the electoral race. 

Nevertheless, you still have a choice. You can turn off the boob tube or change the channel. As for politicians who think that their country is an extension of their family fiefdom, you can always chose not to vote for them come election time. 

But not all people enjoy such rights. Despite the age of democracy wherein one can make choices and express opinions without being punished, autocratic states persist. 

This year, U.S.-based non-government organization Freedom House said nine countries -- Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- are on its list of the  “World’s Most Repressive Societies."   

Freedom House describes the nine repressive regimes as brutal states where there are continuous human rights violations and no civil liberties.  

In these repressive societies, the state controls the people and justice is elusive.

Among the nine, North Korea, where an estimated 200,000 political prisoners held in “control camps,” remains the most consistent as least free since Freedom House started its survey 40 years ago, the group said.

Except Somalia, all the repressive countries are deemed under “brutal dictatorships" that are either ruled by a group or a tyrant and have made very little progress in advancing civil liberties and human rights.

Moreover, Freedom House included disputed territories Tibet and Western Sahara as among the “worst of the worst.” 

The organization also identified seven other countries as near or almost repressive - Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and Libya. 

All of the mentioned countries earned a low rating of 7 from a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being the most free and 7 the least free. 

This puts an estimated 1.6 billion people across the world – or 23 percent of the entire human population – as not free. This means they have no say on how they are governed; cannot practice their basic rights; and face harassment and brutal treatment usually from state actors.

The group also said that all of the identified repressive and near-repressive countries have deep-rooted regimes that are likely to survive and further intensify. 

It cited as an example China, where increased internal security led to “systematic” enforced disappearances of bloggers and human rights advocates.

“The Worst of the Worst and Threshold countries perpetrate the most egregious human rights abuses in the world and thus merit close scrutiny by the international community," Freedom House noted.

It added, "They should remain high on the international human rights agenda. Democratic governments and international organizations, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, should keep a spotlight on these countries and press them to live up to universal human rights norms." 

Despite of the persistence of repression, change is always possible. Freedom House noted that the number of repressed societies decreased from 38 in 1984 to just 16 in 2011.

The Philippines, meanwhile, was described as “partly free,” earning a score of 3 for both political rights and civil liberties, with 7 being the lowest.

A description of the near-repressive and repressive countries:



-Elections are marred by widespread irregularities, including the  December 2010 presidential elections 

-Under the Constitution, power mostly rests on the president, who has five terms, giving control of the courts and the legislative process so much so that “presidential decrees have a higher legal force than ordinary legislation

-Corruption is a “serious problem” strengthened by lack of transparency and accountability of government officials

-President Alyaksandr Lukashenka launched a crackdown on anti-government personalities, control media and the Internet



-Long ruled by the military junta, no democracy

-Basic rights suppressed

-Corruption rampant due to lack of transparency and accountability

-Press freedom is restricted but in 2011, censorship has become more relaxed especially on those not dealing with the government

-Access to foreign news sources and the Internet also relaxed

-Domestic violence and trafficking a concern



-Has “never experienced a free and fair transfer of power through elections.” In April 2011, President Idriss Déby won by 89 percent but mainly because opposition candidates boycotted the elections

-The legislative elections, earlier scheduled in 2006, was delayed to 2011 due to staffing concerns and problems in voters registration

-Freedom of expression “severely restricted” and broadcast media is controlled by the state

- In August 2010, the National Assembly passed a bill that removed imprisonment in libel or slander but meted heavy fines or prison sentences for inciting racial and ethnic hatred and condoning violence.



-Freedom House reported an increase in efforts of the Community Party to restrict discussion of issues such as human rights and politics including disappearance of several activists. There is also restriction among social networking sites

-The Chinese Communist Party has monopoly on power, no elections

-Opposition groups repressed; activists imprisoned

-Despite imprisonment, corruption remains rampant

-Media environment “extremely restrictive” and in 2011, reporting on oil spill, labor unrest, public health and other human rights issues were curbed

-Freedom of assembly restricted


-Not an electoral democracy. For the longest time, country is ruled by Fidel Castro then his brother Raul.

-One-party system

-Political dissent is deemed punishable and a serious offense

-Absolute number of politically motivated short-term detentions in Cuba jumped from 2,078 in 2010 to 4,123 in 2011; total number of longer-term political prisoners decreased from 167 July 2010 to an estimated 73 as of December 2011; In December 2011, the Cuban government released 2,999 prisoners who had mostly fulfilled their sentences

-News media owned and controlled by the government

- “Independent journalists” harassed


- 2009 elections reportedly ridden with harassment against opposition while foreign observers restricted

-Considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, major businesses have difficulty going forward

-Press is censored by government; libel a criminal offense; all journalists required to register with the government

-Freedom of assembly restricted; permit required for political gatherings

-The judiciary is not independent and national security cases are handled by military tribunals

-Freedom House describes prison conditions as “deplorable”


-Elections remain on hold 18 years after the country declared independence

-A ban on media and foreign organizations remain

-The country’s legal political party, the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice, practices authoritarian rule

-Senior military officials accused of corruption and getting involved in smuggling

-Many journalists in detention, many uncharged

-Exercise of religion is very limited and persecution of minority religions persists


-Not an electoral democracy but a one-party government

-Corruption is rampant 

-Press freedom severely restricted; any journalist who criticizes the government faces sanction

-Religions freedom is also restricted; some Christians jailed


-No formal governance institutions

-Skirmishes among militias common

-Under Gadaffi, media severely restricted and journalists work in a “climate of fear.”

-Academic freedom tightly restricted


-The North Korean parliament acts mainly as a “rubber stamp” institution and meets only very few days a year

-Those who participate in the elections” are pre-selected and run unopposed

-Corruption endemic

-Freedom of speech and the press “nonexistent,” all TV and radio fixed to state channels

-No freedom of religion

-Private communication monitored

-Rampant human rights violations including torture, abuse

-No electoral democracy as the king appoints members of the Consultative Council; the Koran and the Sunna are considered the country’s Constitution.

-Political parties not allowed; corruption remains rampant

-Government controls local media; about 400,000 websites are blocked by the government

-All Saudis required by law to be Muslims; other Muslim minorities are repressed

-Government detains political activists


-No governing authority that will protect political rights and civil liberties

-No political parties, people driven by clan loyalty

-Constitution not yet adopted

-Corruption very rampant

-One of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists

-Freedom of assembly not recognized

-No functioning judicial system

-Elections not recognized by international community and no foreign observers present

-2011 presidential elections campaign season marred by violence

-Print and electronic media largely controlled by the separatist movement

-Private broadcasts prohibited


-Experienced upheaval when South Sudan declared independence in 2011

-Due to popular uprisings in various Arab countries, the Sudanese government launched a crackdown on all political movements and stifled any dissent

-Considered one of the world’s most corrupt states

-Press freedom restricted, the government’s Press Council exercises censorship over the media

-Religious freedom not respected and often used by politicians to go after political opponents

-Female genital mutilation widely practiced


-Almost all power rests on executive branch

-Freedom of expression heavily restricted, illegal to publish anything that will destroy the image of the state

-Journalists, even foreign journalists, face detention or just disappear

-Freedom of worship generally respected

-Demonstrations illegal without government consent

-Under Chinese rule, citizens of Tibet don’t have a say on their political future and cannot elect their own leaders

-Flow of information is controlled by the Chinese, which means media and press freedom are restricted

-Government sometimes cuts off the Internet and security tight

-Poor judicial system; judges often lack education and knowledge

-Possession of Dalai Lama related materials can lead to persecution



-No electoral democracy; not one of the elections has been free or fair

-Corruption is widespread, affecting public health and services

-An April 2010 report by Doctors Without Borders alleged that Turkmen authorities are concealing “a dangerous public health situation.”

-Freedom of speech restricted by government, which is also hostile to foreign journalists

-NGOs not illegal but are tightly controlled

-Judicial system subservient to president

-Religion is also restricted

-Poor prison conditions

-Employment and educational opportunities are limited to Turkmen nationalities



-The executive uses its power to suppress all opposition, lack of genuine opposition

-Freedom of speech and press severely restricted 

-State exercises strict control over Islamic worship

-Unregistered religions considered a criminal offense

-Government allegedly limits academic freedom

-Trafficking of women remains a serious problem


-Morocco controls elections; pro-independence leaders are excluded

-Widespread corruption reported

-Despite of rich resources, citizens are largely impoverished

-Freedom of the press limited in Western Sahara

-Moroccan law bars media  from reporting about the country’s sovereignty on Western Sahara