State Department's annual report on human rights around the world
also notes the important role that technology, the Internet, and
social media play in advancing individual freedoms.
Inspiring progress followed by nagging question marks in Arab
countries. Deterioration in China. Significant strides forward in
what was once one of the world's darkest corners, Myanmar.
Those are some of the highlights of the State Department's report
on human rights in the world, the US government's annual review of
the evolution in "universal freedoms" in every country in the world.
The "Arab awakening" receives an anticipated focus in the 2011
report, released Wednesday. But the report also expands thematically
on the important role that technology, the Internet, and social
media play in the area of human rights - in expanding individual
freedoms and in providing opportunities, for authorities in
particular, to squeeze those rights.
"This has been an especially tumultuous year for everyone
involved in the cause of human rights," Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton said in reviewing the report's findings with
reporters Wednesday. "Many of the events that have dominated recent
headlines, from the revolutions in the Middle East to reforms in
Burma, began with human rights, with the clear call of men and women
demanding their universal rights," she said.
The United States continues to refer to Myanmar as Burma, the
country's name before military's rulers changed it in 1989.
Secretary Clinton chose two Arab countries to illustrate both the
gains and the setbacks the world has witnessed in human rights since
last year's report.
Under progress, she highlighted Egypt, whose citizens "are going
to the polls to determine for the first time in their history who
their leaders will be." At the opposite pole, she said, the
government of Syria is going beyond stifling its own people's
aspirations with "an assault on freedom of expression or freedom of
association" to "an assault on the very lives of its citizens.
"The [Bashar al-]Assad regime's brutality against its own people
must and will end," she added, "because Syrians know they deserve a
The report hails the wave of change that swept across the Middle
East, from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya and Yemen, bringing with it an
expansion of political rights and individual freedoms. But it also
notes that these "revolutions" remain works in progress, and that in
some cases specific rights - of women and girls, of religious and
ethnic minorities - have already suffered or face looming
The report draws particular attention to six countries where it
says conditions have not improved or have deteriorated further from
the already "extremely poor" evaluation they received in the 2010
review: Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus,
China, which according to some human rights organizations was
initially handled with kid gloves by the Obama administration, gets
an especially negative evaluation. …