Freedom Stagnation

Article excerpt

Byline: Alejandro ("Alex") Chafuen, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In its recently released Freedom in the World 2007 survey, Freedom House coins a new term for these troubled times: "freedom stagnation."

On every continent, it seems, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and academic freedom are under attack.

Reporters Without Borders says a "record number" of journalists and media workers were killed or imprisoned around the world last year. The victims included Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist known for her outspoken views on Russian activities in Chechnya. Another was Hrant Dink, a well-known Turkish journalist gunned down not long after his arrest for "insulting Turkish identity."

The Committee to Protect Journalists places the total journalists killed in 2006 at 55. Reporters Without Borders and the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute place the number much higher. In a March 6 report, the latter organization claimed that in the last 10 years alone more than 1,000 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs. When you realize hundreds of others have been the victims of kidnappings, jailings, threats and harassment, a disturbing picture emerges.

While the world's thugs and oppressors have no qualms about using strong-arm and even lethal tactics, there are other ways to silence people, such as taking away their livelihood.

In Venezuela, for example, President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to strip Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) of its broadcast license. The crackdown on RCTV, one of the country's oldest and most widely viewed television stations, prompted a strong rebuke from the Organization of American States (OAS), which plans to ask the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to intervene in the matter.

If history tells us anything at all, however, it is that Mr. Chavez will ignore any court ruling, and do so in the most undignified manner. Or he will tell the court to mind its own damn business, as he did the Organization of American States' Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, after Mr. Insulza urged Mr. Chavez to reconsider.

The same tactic with a different twist also can be seen in Turkey. Last year, Turkish political science professor and think tank president Atilla Yayla, whom I have known for more than 15 years, presented a lecture in which he made the case that Kemalism the official nationalist and secular ideology created by followers of the Turkish Republic's founder, Kemal Ataturk was a step backward rather than forward. …