Freedom House: Democratic Decline Persists in Ukraine
A new report released by Freedom House on 5 July finds a persistent decline in democratic principles and human rights in Ukraine, a development which is especially worrying in light of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2012. Sounding the Alarm Round 2: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine, which is the follow up to a previous report, Sounding the Alarm, Protecting Democracy in Ukraine released in April 2011, found that little progress has been made over the past year on serious democracy and human rights issues in Ukraine, and some problems have grown considerably worse. The report cites a consolidation of power in the executive branch; widely condemned local elections; growing levels of corruption; a more restrictive environment for the media; and the criminalization of politics, exemplified by the prosecution of high-level opposition politicians, as the main threats to democracy in Ukraine.
“We remain very concerned about the democracy/human rights situation in Ukraine and hope that the leadership in Kyiv understands the gravity of the situation, ” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “In the coming weeks and months, Ukraine’s leadership must make a choice between consolidating power through undemocratic means and advancing its nation’s European aspirations."
The report is the culmination of a week-long assessment mission conducted in April 2012. The authors interviewed dozens of people representing an extensive range of interests in Ukraine. Among those interviewed were President Viktor Yanukovich, imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko. The fact finding was undertaken in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Lviv with experts and professionals from the spheres of government, civil society, business, media, and education.
The mission was conducted by three American experts on Ukraine: David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House; Damon Wilson, executive vice president at the Atlantic Council; and Robert Nurick, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. They were joined by two Ukrainian experts, Victoria Syumar, Executive Director of the Institute of Mass Information, and Olexander Sushko, Research Director of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and chairman of the Board of the International Renaissance Foundation.
Ukraine was downgraded from Free to Partly Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties and is ranked Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2012.