How contagious is authoritarianism?
Russian human rights activists discuss Freedom House report
The human rights community in Russia is actively discussing the annual report of the Freedom House organization, which speaks of the alarming global trend of a rollback from democracy.
A significant part of the study is directly or indirectly devoted to the Russian Federation. The organization’s experts express concern that Russia and China, as the leading autocratic regimes of the world, not only intensify repression in domestic politics, but also spread a negative impact on other countries, which are also increasingly beginning to neglect democratic principles..
According to the authors of the report, Moscow and Beijing see democracy as a threat to their repressive regimes and are working to undermine democratic institutions and suppress the activities of democracy defenders..
As Freedom House states, today it is becoming more and more difficult to ensure the observance of democratic principles within one country, ignoring the situation in others: “The autocratic regimes of Russia and China obviously understand that in order to maintain power within the country, they need to suppress open discussion, persecute dissidents and put endangering rule-based institutions beyond their borders. Citizens and leaders of democracies must realize that the opposite is also true: in order to preserve their own freedoms, they must defend human rights in all countries. “.
The reality of globalization is such that our destinies are interconnected, the authors of the report emphasize..
Valery Borshchev, co-chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MGH), believes that the report very subtly noted the impact of the repressive policies pursued by Moscow and Beijing against their own citizens on other countries that follow the example of Russia and China. At the same time, in his opinion, the problem is much more complex and multifaceted..
“Previously, it was the prerogative of exclusively Soviet propaganda – to assert, for example, that the Voice of America and the BBC were running the protest movement (in the USSR),” he recalled in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America. – Today it is repeated again. The Russian media tirelessly assert that all troubles come to us from the West, as if all of us living in the country are idiots and do not understand anything. However, this is only one side of the coin “.
The human rights activist agrees with the conclusions of the report that Russia is interfering in the elections of other states, and considers RT to be “blatant oak propaganda.” Nevertheless, he hopes that the citizens of Western countries are sufficiently informed and will not succumb to the Kremlin’s propaganda tricks..
“At the same time, we can now see how French President Macron and other politicians are beginning to explain the protest movements within their countries by the influence of the Kremlin,” continued Valery Borshchev. – In my opinion, everything is much more complicated. I would like to remind our Western colleagues that we ourselves suffer from this approach, when all our protest actions are explained by the influence of the West, as if we can be controlled as someone pleases. Of course, this is not the case. This is not the case in the West either. Yellow vests in France took to the streets by no means at the behest of Moscow “.
The policy of Russia and China must be opposed by the entire culture of Western democracy, its age-old traditions, summed up the MHG co-chairman.
In turn, human rights activist and opposition politician Natalya Pelevina is also convinced that the current situation with rights and freedoms in Russia concerns not only the citizens of the country..
“This is certainly true,” she states in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America. – Although repressive methods within the Russian Federation have been practiced for a long time, it seems that the world has only now realized what the current Putin regime is, all the degree of its aggressiveness, lack of principle, complete lack of morality, and the like. However, this has its own logic. It has become absolutely clear in the most recent years that Russia’s problems concern not only the country itself, but also the world as a whole. “.
From the point of view of Natalia Pelevina, this is due both to the aggressive foreign policy of the Kremlin, aimed at interfering in the affairs of other states, and to the unprecedented course of suppressing human rights and freedoms inside the country..
“There is a common expression in Russia: a bad example is contagious,” she stressed. – Unfortunately, this turned out to be true even for some European countries. I think, however, the West has more than enough tools to reverse this trend. To do this, it is enough to take a closer look at what is happening in Russia itself and where it is heading, into what abyss. We have articles of the Criminal Code, which, in principle, are impossible in any free democratic country “.
In Russia, human rights and freedoms are completely relative in nature, says Natalya Pelevina: “These concepts exist only within the framework established by the state, regardless of laws and the constitution. What the authorities decide will be. It is extremely doubtful that such an experience looks attractive even in someone’s eyes “.
The main problem of Russia is that a significant number of people have resigned themselves to the rules of the game established by the authorities, the human rights activist concluded..