Latest Freedom House Report – Ukraine, UK and league tables

May 7, 2012

Well the latest Freedom House Report has been out a week or so and to be honest I was not in any particular rush to mention it, not because it isn’t worth mentioning, many people and governments give it credence and in a time where league tables and benchmarks have become the main foundation for conversation amongst the politicians globally, a mention is thus due.

This though is mostly due to the fact there is a serious lack of creativity and imagination amongst the global political leaders, and the league tables and benchmarks give them something to talk about by making comparisons rather than imaginative policy and meaningful public engagement.   Quite why we as societies have allowed the this to happen I am not sure, but when we allow the politicians to control the political debate the entire time,  we should expect nothing but political grey noise.

Yes, comparisons are interesting, but do I really care if the French or Italians are doing worse than we are going by  some league table if things still aren’t good enough where I am?  Of course I don’t.  I care about what and how the leadership are going to improve the environment in which I live every day.  Even if Ukraine was top of every league (on the positive side) would I still expect the leadership to continue to be creative and imaginative to make that environment even better?  Yes, I would.  I would expect the same if I was in the UK from the British government.

Waffling on about where Ukraine is in comparison to nations X and Y in a league table is simply noise to fill the void of severely lacking imagination and creativity when dealing with the issues of State, agency and society.  The continued political striving for Utopia for all a nations citizens remains the goal whether you are top or bottom of the league as improvements can always be found.

And thus, turning to the latest Freedom House Report, I don’t care that Ukraine is better than Belarus or Iran but worse than the UK.  What I care about is whether it is deemed there have been improvements rather than retrograde steps during the reporting period in any national comparison from the previous reporting period.

I care if Ukraine or the UK is seen to have improved or worsened comparatively to where each nation was the previous year.  Whether it has gone up or down in any league table is an irrelevance  as like I have already said, even topping any such table does not mean there is not work to do.

So reading this report, it states Ukraine’s score has worsened by 3 point over the past 12 months.  I am therefore concerned, not by whether Ukraine has been overtaken by another nation in the league table but simply by the fact it has worsened and I want to know why.

According to Freedom House, the reasoning is “Ukraine’s score fell from 56 to 59 points as a result of  growing government control over the media.  Many national media council members are loyal to the government official and media tycoon Valery Khoroshkovsky and media owners increasingly face political pressure regarding content.”  

Not good, whether that is down to overt threats through licensing, self-censorship, or any other reason.  Ukraine remains, according to Freedom House “partly free” and going in the wrong direction.  That said, even the Ukrainian opposition stated the Freedom House assessment was unfair, and they had political mileage in maximising the report’s statements: “Оцінка свободи слова в Україні на рівні Пд Судану – несправедлива. Але це чітко показує, куди ми рухаємося” – Andrey Shevchenko BYuT

So how is the UK doing?  The UK rating also dropped by 3 points during the reporting period.  The same point reduction as Ukraine.

The reason for this given by Freedom House, “The United Kingdom’s score fell from 19 to 21 point due to the use of super injunctions – which prevent the media from reporting both the targeted information and and the very existence of an injunction – by celebrities and wealthy individuals, as well as attacks on journalists covering riots.  In addition the police and government used the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act to force a number of media organisations to hand over unedited footage of rioting in London and Northern Ireland.”

Neither statements read well, however I am not sure which reads worse, and in the case of the UK, that is before we even consider the on-going, perversely interesting and simultaneously extremely worrying,  Leveson inquiry in the UK over phone tapping, email hacking, bribery, and generally an exceptionally unhealthy and ugly menage a trois between the politicians, police and media  which led to Lord Puttnam stating “Leveson has uncovered a “banana republic”: corrupt press, corrupt police, corrupt politicians.”

Thus, even if Ukraine climbed the league table to equal the “free” position occupied by the UK, it would still have a very long way to go to reach the standards that society expects when we consider the Freedom House and Lord Puttnam’s comments.

Both nations stand at -3 from the previous Freedom House reporting period, both nations are chastised for governmental and legal interference/control over the media and both are therefore seen as heading at an equally rapid pace in the wrong direction.

As far as the citizenry of both nations are concerned, it is that backsliding that is important and not where they sit in the league table, despite the political classes trying to fill the public debating  space with noises of comparisons to others.

I see little benefit in politicians pointing the finger and stating look at them, their cancer is worse than our cancer.  If both know they have cancer, it is a matter of an individual fight to beat it rather than die from it.  It is the self improvement that matters (or the internal backsliding).

The politicians should note that I do not pay taxes in the nation they offer up as comparison.  I am not a stake-holder in those nations.  I am a stake-holder in the nations I pay taxes, whether I can vote in them or not (UK I can, Ukraine I can’t), but because I pay taxes in these nations I have a right to expect the political classes to do their jobs that I pay them for through my taxes.  In short I expect continued gradual improvements as a share-holder in either the UK or Ukraine.

Both nations managing the same rate of decline in the Freedom House report, leave me  equally short-changed on my inverstments in 2011.

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