10/15/06

Land of the (partly) free




The indenpendent organization Freedom House came out with the "Map of Freedom in the world" (2006) (see above). The map displays countries filed under 3 categories: free, partly free and not free. There are shades of "freedom" between the 3 categories as explained in the methodology of scoring "freedom" points. I am always a bit suspicious of anyone naming something freedom since they decided to call "French Fries" "Freedom fries" and "French bread" "freedom bread". (This was as childish as it gets. I am not sure if they also switched to "Freedom kiss" and Freedom Connection" :) ).
Still, I perused through the report for the countries of interest to me and this is what I found: (as you can see on the map)
Madagascar: partly free, Zambia: partly free ....(In fact, all of Africa is not free except for South-Africa and Senegal).
If what is meant by free is that we are not "free" to purchase everything we want, then I can see their point :( ( Freedom, as we all learned in the dreaded philosophy class in Terminale, is a complicated concept).
However, freedom here is scored based on 2 criteria: Personal Liberties and Civil Rights.
If those 2 concepts are the real factors taken into account, I am going to go out on a limb and affirm that the USA should be in the "partly free" category. Either that or move Madagascar in a "superfree" category because when it comes to civil rights.....well, no further comment.
In fact, I will let the freedomhouse.org report about the USA make the argument for me. Here are a few notes form the report:
"A serious and increasing problem for American democracy is the widespread practice of drawing districts for the House of Representatives and for state legislatures that are designed to maximize the election of a particular party or to protect incumbent legislators of either party. The practice, known as gerrymandering, has been a part of the American system since its inception. [...]
Criticism was directed at the Bush administration for having given grants to several journalists, who in turn gave favorable publicity to administration education and social programs in news columns. The administration was also criticized for the widespread dissemination of government-produced videos that were then aired by local televisions stations without identification of the government as the program source."
You may want to check your country report card on freedom and ranking here and see how well you fared. ;).
I think I know why they put Madagascar in the "not so free" category but I will let you be the judge.
PS: We had a bit of snow last week here in Indiana. It was Oct. 12th.... I need to move south pronto.
PS #2: Since Russia is still flagged as "not free", it kind of brings back memory of 80's cold war: anyone remember this ? ( hint: Sting sings "... we share the same biology, regardless of ideology")


14 comments:

  1. This is quite an interesting analysis. I dont know about the US being totally free and all considering i've been here only a few years. But taking their indices into account, India is definitely not 'free'. There is no concept of personal liberties or civil rights there yet. Everything's ruled by conservative societal and political restrictions. And to mention civil rights for women....

    P.S: It snowed 2-3 feet in Buffalo too apparently. I wanna go back to Arizona!!! I'm in denial...cant be winter yet... :/

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  2. hello Amrita,
    I think the freedomhouse.org survey is actually helpful and intriguing. My problem is with the lack of objectivity of the final scoring. The report seems to not correlate well with the final score. Regarding India, I will let you and people more knowledgeable about the issue discuss the matter...:). I seem to remember Mosi complaining about the excessive censorship though.
    Denial about early winter: where can I join that club ?

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  3. Hi Lova !

    Don't even start with the weather forecast (why the hell is she in Canada if she hates winter so much? well...hmmm good question...) Talking about freedom, I see they have green nearly everywhere in America (I mean the continent) and a big big dark blue for Russia maybe it have something to do with the weather? lollll....I mean it's pretty cold in Russia and the only place I wanna go is Brazil so this map fits me well !
    Ok fine I'm going to stick to the subject, I think it's not that easy to categorize country but they did a good work, Amnesty has a list to I presume, theirs may be more realistic as they use larger datas.

    Bizzz lova

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  4. Hey Jogany,
    I think you hit the nail right on the head. This map reminds me of those old "cold" war maps of the 60's. If they just took former socialist regimes and peg them as "not free" nations, I could have done it myself. However, I will give them the benefit of the doubt because the institute was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt so credibility should be granted by default. :) Brazil ? still the girl from Ipanema huh ? ;)

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  5. I think it's a fair assessment, except Zambia should be 'free.' Mwanawasa's done a pretty good job of not locking up journalists and so on, and in general people can do what they want. India - people have the freedom to do nonsense, for instance peeing on the side of the road. They've improved in recent years with the RTI - right to information act where any citizen has the right to receive complete information from the government about anything that the government passes. Unfortunately the government still thinks that it is the 'dad and mom' of the people, occasionally banning movies and websites that they think are detrimental to society... and they still haven't removed this 1800s law that makes 'sex against the laws of nature' illegal. There's a free speech law, however it has a caveat that the government reserves the right to stop people from saying anything that it deems is bad for the country. Ah well... USA - people can still say what they want, just that they get attacked verbally if they are too popular and go against Bush. so partly free, maybe?

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  6. hi Mosi,

    I thought so as well about Zambia. About India, it seems to me that India has a long history and it takes more time for reforms to take place.( of course, I could be totally of base) That, plus the fact that the nation is so large that they feel the need to apply more control maybe....
    About USA, I will go with partly free as well because as you said you can say what you want (for instance here ;) ) and not be bothered until you get too visible :)....
    About Madagascar,
    here is the reason why, I think, they put us in the partly free sections. Foud in their report on Madagascar:
    "In 2005, Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about several actions infringing on freedom of the press. These included prison sentences handed down in separate libel cases against the publisher of the independent daily La Gazette de la Grande Ile, the closure of three privately owned radio stations in the port city of Toamasina after the broadcasting of statements by opposition figures, and the forced departure from the country of the Radio France Internationale correspondent.
    While the Malagasy people have traditionally enjoyed religious freedom, in late 2005, Madagascar's government shut down a popular Protestant charismatic church that was winning followers from the more traditional Protestant movement, of which Ravalomanana is an adherent."
    Many people will dispute this assessment, I, for one, did not follow the matter close enough to have an opinion on the matter.

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  7. yeah, some of us are modernising faster than the rest of the country. nobody likes the government controlling freedom of expression so much but not enough people have complained about it yet. Here's a link for you that has a bit about Madagascar, India, and Kenya in it.

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  8. I believe some parts of Europe are also facing changes reluctanctly because their history is so long.
    Thanks for the link, I can totally picture the community :).

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  9. Anonymous11:13 AM

    lova,
    i believe freedom means different things for different people. but some people here in the us genuinely believe theirs is the only free country on earth. "at least i know i'm free" as says a john mellencamp song.
    i always find it funny because sometimes i think freedom here mainly means freedom to indulge in the most materialistic lifestyle possible. but then i am being unfair because where else in the world would kkk groups be allowed to rally publicly while being guarded by policemen paid for by my income taxes? that's freedom of speech for sure...
    sipakv

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  10. sipakv,
    I could not agree more with your 3points. 1)Freedom of speech is undeniable here: I appreciate the fact that I can rant about their failures without fear. 2)some believe the only totally free country is the US of A: that is so annoying especially when they are convinced that they have an obligation to "liberate" the other nations. 3) Materialism: this is, in my opinion, the definition and limitation of their concept of freedom. Freedom always boils down to the bottom line. Case in point, if you don't hurt or increase the bottom line, you are free to:
    1) say or show anything on tv or in public (i.e KKK as you said)
    2) buy firearms.
    3) invade other countries :(.
    However, you are not free to:
    1) take time off just to be with your family more.
    2) make your vote count (if you are in Florida )
    3) get health care if you cannot pay for it. Why ? because it hurts the bottom line.
    And that was my oversimplified rant of the day :). Thank you for allowing me to vent and apologies for hijacking your thoughts. :)

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  11. Hjk,

    Mike Tyson's next book: " How I went from the "baddest" fighter ever to everyone's favorite train wreck." :)
    The weird thing is that the fascination with him here never stops. He's become in a strange way, the male Paris Hilton.

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  12. sorry lova for taking a while responding to you. yeah, let's bring freedom and democracy to the middle east, the mayhem and bloodbath that ensue are only the "birthpangs of democracy" dixit Condi Rice...

    sipakv

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  13. no worries sipakv, wishing you a happy halloween with the family.
    Well, as long as they are "staying the course"...;)

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