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Freedom House is a Washington-based international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. It publishes an annual report assessing the degree of perceived democratic freedoms in each country, which is used in political science research.

The organization was founded by Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941, and describes itself as "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world." The group states "American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom" and that this can primarily be achieved through the group's "analysis, advocacy, and action". Freedom House receives about 66% of its budget from the U.S. government, but also receives funding from various other sources, for example the Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Dutch government, and a list of others. Critics have criticized the organization for receiving funding from and allegedly furthering the interests of the U.S. government, while some within the U.S. government have offered support to the group's work.

Mission Statement

As stated by Freedom House:

"Freedom House is an independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world.
Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed."

"Freedom ultimately depends on the actions of committed and courageous men and women.
We support nonviolent civic initiatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat and we stand in opposition to ideas and forces that challenge the right of all people to be free.
Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law through its analysis, advocacy, and action."

Freedom House also states its "diverse Board of Trustees is united in the view that American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom."


The organization was founded by Wendell Willkie, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Field, Dorothy Thompson, Herbert Bayard Swope, and others in 1941. Originally launched in response to the threat posed by Nazism, it now describes itself as a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world. Freedom House states that it:

The group states that during the 1940s, Freedom House supported the Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATOmarker. Freedom House also states that it was highly critical of McCarthyism. During the 1950s and 1960s, it supported the U.S. civil rights movement and its leadership included several prominent civil rights activists. It supported Andrei Sakharov, other Soviet dissidents, and the Solidarity movement in Polandmarker. Freedom House assisted the post-Communist societies in the establishment of independent media, non-governmental think tanks, and the core institutions of electoral politics.

On June 25, 2005, freelance journalist F. William Engdahl asserted on the website that Freedom House was "created in the late 1940’s to back the creation of NATO" and criticized the group for being headed by former CIA director James Woolsey at the time of his article's publication.

More recently, Freedom House has supported citizens involved in revolutions in Serbia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. It states "In Jordan, Freedom House worked to stem violence against women; in Algeria, it sought justice for victims of torture; in Uzbekistan, a brutal dictatorship, it sought to defend human rights advocates; in Venezuela, it worked with those seeking to protect and promote human rights in a difficult political environment."


Freedom House receives the majority (66%) of its funding from the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and the State Departmentmarker. It also receives some funding from foundations such as the Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Dutch government, and a list of others.

Robert Parry implicates the use of CIA money channeled to Freedom House to sponsor political changes beneficial to America, to the apparent total ignorance of Freedom House.

Holly Sklar, details how former CIA agent Charlie Wick initiated a "public diplomacy" fundraiser campaign amongst right-wing donors organizations, lobbyists and PR specialists working in conjunction with the NED, NSC, CIA and White House Office of Public Liaison and the State Department of Public Diplomacy which established a special group called the Outreach Working Group. NSC official Walter Raymond and Roy Godson recommended donated $400,000 to Freedom House that has credibility in the political centre in a PR war against the Nicaraguan government.

Author Mark McKinney bluntly defines Freedom House as "funded by both the US government and Soros to provide support to pro-Western opposition movements" and intimately links Freedom House with the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and the International Foundation for Election Systems. Furthermore he argues Otpor, the group which overthrew Milosevic, received funds from the NED and Agency for International Development via the Reagan Administration established NED to do overtly what the CIA had done covertly, that is, promote Cold War propaganda and operations though Freedom House, then chaired by former CIA director James Woolsey and supported by Billionaire Soros foundations, who always support NED operations.


Freedom House is a nonprofit organization. It is predominantly funded by the U.S. government, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It has field offices in about a dozen countries, including Ukrainemarker, Hungarymarker, Serbiamarker, Jordanmarker, Mexicomarker, and a number of countries in Central Asia.

It is controlled by a Board of Trustees, which it describes as composed of 'business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars, writers, and journalists'. While some board members were born outside the United States, and many have been affiliated with international groups, all are current residents of the United States. It does not identify itself with either of the American Republican or the Democratic parties. The board is currently chaired by William H. Taft IV. Taft assumed chairmanship of the board in January 2009, replacing previous chair Peter Ackerman. Other current notable board members include Kenneth Adelman, Farooq Kathwari, Azar Nafisi, Mark Palmer, P. J. O'Rourke, and Lawrence Lessig, while past notable board members have included Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Samuel Huntington, Mara Liasson, Otto Reich, Donald Rumsfeld, Whitney North Seymour, Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Forbes, and Bayard Rustin.

Freedom House describes its relationship with the U.S. government as follows: "Freedom House is an independent, non-governmental organization that was initially created in 1941 to urge the U.S. government to adopt policies supporting democracy and human rights at home and abroad. Its reports and analyses are independent of any governmental influence and are enriched by an intellectual atmosphere of scholarly inquiry. In recent years, Freedom House has received grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department for various projects, usually as a result of public competition. Freedom House has also applied for and received funds from other democratic governments and international bodies that promote democracy, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway and the European Union. Freedom House chooses to respond to specific funding opportunities, but never accepts funds from government institutions, including U.S. government agencies, in the form of contracts, and never functions as an extension of any government."


Freedom in the World

[[Image:2009 Freedom House world map.svg|thumb|330px|Map reflecting the findings of Freedom House's 2009 survey, concerning the state of world freedom in 2008, which correlates highly with other measures of democracy. Some of these estimates are disputed. ]]

This graph shows the percentage of nations in the different categories given above for the period for which there are surveys, 1973-2008

Since 1972 (1978 in book form), Freedom House publishes an annual report, Freedom in the World, on the degree of democratic freedoms in nations and significant disputed territories around the world, by which it seeks to assess the current state of civil and political rights on a scale from 1 (most free) to 7 (least free). These reports are often used by political scientists when doing research. The ranking is highly correlated with several other ratings of democracy also frequently used by researchers.

The methodology Freedom House uses for its reports has been criticized by social scientist K. A. Bollen for its perceived bias towards countries with pro-US positions. Bollen argues that by relying on 'experts' or 'judges', the methodology falls into what is described as 'systematic measurement error': "Regardless of the direction of distortions, it is highly likely that every set of indicators formed by a single author or organization contains systematic measurement error. The origin of this measure lies in the common methodology of forming measures. Selectivity of information and various traits of the judges fuse into a distinct form of bias that is likely to characterize all indicators from a common publication."

In its 2003 report, for example, Canadamarker (judged as fully free and democratic) got a perfect score of a "1" in civil liberties and a "1" in political rights, earning it the designation of "free." Nigeriamarker got a "5" and a "4," earning it the designation of "partly free," while North Koreamarker scored the lowest rank of "7-7," and was thus dubbed "not free." Nations are scored from 0 to 4 on several questions and the sum determines the rankings. Example questions: "Is the head of state and/or head of government or other chief authority elected through free and fair elections?", "Is there an independent judiciary?", "Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?" Freedom House states that the rights and liberties of the survey are derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The research and ratings process involved two dozen analysts and more than a dozen senior-level academic advisors. The eight members of the core research team headquartered in New York, along with 16 outside consultant analysts, prepared the country and territory reports. The analysts used a broad range of sources of information—including foreign and domestic news reports, academic analyses, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, individual professional contacts, and visits to the region—in preparing the reports.

The country and territory ratings were proposed by the analyst responsible for each related report. The ratings were reviewed individually and on a comparative basis in a series of six regional meetings — Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Europe — involving the analysts, academic advisors with expertise in each region, and Freedom House staff. The ratings were compared to the previous year's findings, and any major proposed numerical shifts or category changes were subjected to more intensive scrutiny. These reviews were followed by cross-regional assessments in which efforts were made to ensure comparability and consistency in the findings. Many of the key country reports were also reviewed by the academic advisers. Regardless, such a process contains elements of subjectivity.

The survey's methodology is reviewed periodically by an advisory committee of political scientists with expertise in methodological issues.

Freedom House also produces annual reports on press freedom (Press Freedom Survey), governance in the nations of the former Soviet Unionmarker (Nations in Transit), and countries on the borderline of democracy (Countries at the Crossroads). In addition, one-time reports have included a survey of women's freedoms in the Middle East.

Freedom House generally uses standard geographic regions for its reports, though it groups the countries of the Middle East and North Africa together, separately from Sub-Saharan Africa; and it still uses the arguably outdated concept of Western Europe, to include countries such as Turkeymarker and Cyprusmarker, while categorizing Central and Eastern Europe separately — a division stemming from the Cold War era which ignores the eastwards expansion of such organizations such the EU and NATO. However, these groupings have nothing to do with the individual country ratings; they're merely used to make nations easier to find when perusing their reports, and also for comparative statistics between the modern day and the ratings of decades past.

It has been cited in thousands of scholarly articles and books.

On January 16, 2008, Freedom House dropped the "freedom status" of the Philippines to partially free from a list of totally free countries. It based the downgrade on a spate of political killings "specifically targeting left-wing political activists in the country."

Freedom of the Press

Freedom House also produces Freedom of the Press, a yearly report measuring the level of freedom and editorial independence enjoyed by the press in every nation and significant disputed territories around the world, on a scale from 1 (most free) to 100 (least free). Depending on the ratings, the nations are then classified as "Free", "Partly Free", or "Not Free".

Other activities

In addition to these reports, Freedom House participates in advocacy initiatives, currently focused on North Korea, Africa, and religious freedom. It has offices in a number of countries, where it promotes and assists local human rights workers and non-government organizations.

On January 12, 2006, as part of a crackdown on unauthorized nongovernmental organizations, the Uzbek government ordered Freedom House to suspend operations in Uzbekistan. Resource and Information Centers managed by Freedom House in Tashkentmarker, Namanganmarker, and Samarkandmarker offered access to materials and books on human rights, as well as technical equipment, such as computers, copiers and Internet access. The government warned that criminal proceedings could be brought against Uzbek staff members and visitors following recent amendments to the criminal code and Code on Administrative Liability of Uzbekistan. Other human rights groups have been similarly threatened and obliged to suspend operations.

Freedom House is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of more than 70 non-governmental organizations that monitors free expression violations around the world and defends journalists, writers and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Observers identified Freedom House as a counterrevolutionary organization that encouraged subversion in Cuba. In 2001, the two Czech citizens Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenix were detained because they were said to be in violation of their status as tourists. They held meetings of a conspiratorial nature with members of small bands in Ciego de Avila province. The plot was allegedly designed by U.S. Government through the guise of Freedom House.

Human Rights activists have denounced Freedom House for being a political instrument used by hawkish circles in the United States to put pressure on countries that do not behave according to their standards.

Regarding regime change, Freedom House claims that it works with people around the world to "expand political rights and civil liberties." Freedom House claims that it does not support regime change. In a March 20, 2003 message, Freedom House expressed its support for the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The Financial Times has reported that Freedom House is one of several organizations selected by the State Department to receive funding for 'clandestine activities' inside Iranmarker. In a research study, with Mr. Ackerman acting as chief adviser, Freedom House sets out its conclusions: "Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance - which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders."

On June 8, 2006, the vice-chairman of Freedom House's board of trustees asked the U.S. Senate to increase the share of NGO funding aimed at helping support non-violent foreign democratic activists organize for potential overthrows of their non-democratic governments. Palmer argued in favor of shifting funding away from NGOs working in already democratic nations to fund this effort.

On December 7, 2004, U.S. House Representative Ron Paul criticized Freedom House for allegedly administering a U.S.-funded program in Ukraine where "much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate." Paul said that
"one part that we do know thus far is that the U.S. government, through the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID), granted millions of dollars to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (PAUCI), which is administered by the U.S.-based Freedom House.
PAUCI then sent U.S.
Government funds to numerous Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
This would be bad enough and would in itself constitute meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.
But, what is worse is that many of these grantee organizations in Ukraine are blatantly in favor of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko."

United Nation arguments

In May 2001, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations heard arguments for and against Freedom House. Representatives of Cubamarker alleged that the organization is a U.S. foreign policy instrument linked to the CIA and "submitted proof of the politically motivated, interventionist activities the NGO (Freedom House) carried out against their Government". They also claimed a lack of criticism of U.S. human rights violations in the annual reports. Cuba also claimed that these violations are well documented by other reports, such as those of Human Rights Watch. Other countries such as Chinamarker and Sudanmarker also gave criticism. The Russianmarker representative inquired "why this organization, an NGO which defended human rights, was against the creation of the International Criminal Court." The United States representative claimed that alleged links between Freedom House and the CIA were "simply not true." The representative said he agreed that the NGO receives funds from the United States Government, but said this is disclosed in its reports. The representative said the funds were from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which was not a branch of the CIA. The representative said his country had a law prohibiting the government from engaging in the activities of organizations seeking to change public policy, such as Freedom House. The representative said his country was not immune from criticism from Freedom House, which he said was well documented. The US representative further argued that Freedom House was a human rights organization which sought to represent those who did not have a voice. The representative said he would continue to support NGOs who criticized his Government and those of others.


James Woolsey, neocon chairman of the Freedom House, and a former director of the CIA, claimed Russia was becoming an increasingly fascist state, and that Russian administration under incumbent president Putin (2000-2008) was behaving "like a fascist government". He added, "Mr. Putin and his movement toward fascism in Russia are on the wrong side of history. They are not going to succeed, they may hold on for some time in trying to undermine the democratic revolutions near Russia and in these adjoining states, and they may be partially successful here and there, but ultimately they will lose."

Russia, identified by Freedom House as "Not Free", called Freedom House biased and accused the group of serving U.S. interests. Sergei Markov, a Duma deputy from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, called Freedom House a "Russophobic" organization. "You can listen to everything they say, except when it comes to Russia," Markov argued. "There are many Russophobes there," he asserted. In response, Christopher Walker, director of studies at Freedom House, argued that Freedom House made its evaluations based on objective criteria explained on the organization's web site, and he denied that it had a pro-U.S. agenda. "If you look closely at the 193 countries that we evaluate, you'll find that we criticize what are often considered strategic allies of the United States," he said.

United States and Israel

Freedom House has criticized both the United States and its major allies to a certain extent, for example in its 2006 report on the U.S. and Israelmarker. It criticized the U.S. for its policies on interrogation and detention during the War on Terrorism and urged they should be brought into compliance with international law. The occupied Palestinian territoriesmarker, administered by Israel and Palestinian Authority, have not received good scores. However, Israel itself, not including the Territories received an assessment as a free electoral democracy.

U.S. Government Role

As noted in the section on organization above, Freedom House receives most of its funding from the U.S. government, and prominent U.S. government officials reside on its board. MITmarker Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, University of Pennsylvaniamarker Professor Emeritus Edward S. Herman, and some nations have criticized the organization for receiving funding from and allegedly furthering the interests of the U.S. government. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, in their book Manufacturing Consent, wrote that in 1979 Freedom House monitored the election of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and found them "fair", but found the 1980 elections won by Mugabe under British supervision "dubious". Chomsky and Herman further write that the group's history has been characterized as excessively criticizing states opposed to US interests and unduly sympathetic to those regimes supportive of US interests. The authors suggest this can be most notably seen by the way it perceived the US ally El Salvador in the early 1980s, a regime that used the army for mass slaughter of the populace to intimidate them in the run up to an "election", but Freedom House found these elections to be "admirable". Freedom House was criticized for taking part in the rehabilitation campaign for the ARENA right-wing extremist party, which participated in the World Anti-Communist League and took responsibility for massacres in El Salvador.

Noam Chomsky further claimed in 1988 that Freedom House "had interlocks with AIM, the World Anticommunist League , Resistance International, and U.S. government bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA, and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (U.S) government and international right wing." He justifies this claim by presenting a series of national elections that he claims were staged and that the Freedom House observers praised. He also criticizes Freedom House's claimed expenditure of "substantial resources in criticizing the media for insufficient sympathy with U.S. foreign-policy ventures and excessively harsh criticism of U.S. client states." Chomsky further argues that "Its most notable publication of this genre was Peter Braestrup's Big Story, which contended that the media's negative portrayal of the Tet offensive helped lose the war. The work is a travesty of scholarship, but more interesting is its premise: that the mass media not only should support any national venture abroad, but should do so with enthusiasm, such enterprises being by definition noble."

F. William Engdahl notes Gene Sharp authored a text a basic how-to manual for the color revolutions From Dictatorship to Democracy was funded by the US Congress, NED and the Soros Foundations, to train people in and to study the theories of ‘non-violence as a form of warfare.’ Sharp had worked with NATOmarker and the CIA over the years training operators in Burmamarker, Lithuaniamarker, Serbiamarker, Georgiamarker, Ukrainemarker to Taiwanmarker, Venezuelamarker and Iraqmarker. Furthermore, Engdahl says Freedom House endorsed the text and gave it rave reviews. Engdahl argues that, "in short virtually every regime which has been the target of a US-backed soft coup in the past twenty years has involved Freedom House, NED, Gene Sharp and usually, his associate, Col. Robert Helvey, a retired US Army intelligence specialist. Notably, Sharp was in Beijing two weeks before student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Pentagon and US intelligence have refined the art of such soft coups to a fine level. RAND planners call it ‘swarming,’ referring to the swarms of youth, typically linked by SMS and web blogs, who can be mobilized on command to destabilize a target regime. Observers were critical of Freedom House's prominent support for America's invasion of Iraq.

Diana Barahona, an independent journalist who has published for the Washington-based non-profit organization the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the US Newspaper Guild journal, has criticized the group's perceived ties to state power and conservative institutions. The organization states that its board of trustees contains Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are a mix of business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars and journalists.

Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, wrote that the executive director of Freedom House told him in 2003 that the group decided to back off from its efforts to spotlight human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, because some Republican board members (in Murray’s words) “expressed concern that Freedom House was failing to keep in sight the need to promote freedom in the widest sense, by giving full support to U.S. and coalition forces.” Human rights abuses in Uzbekistan at the time included treatment of prisoners who were killed by "immersion in boiling liquid," and by strapping on a gas mask and blocking the filters, Murray reported. Jennifer Windsor, the executive director of Freedom House now and in 2003, said Murray's "characterization of our conversation is an inexplicable misrepresentation not only of what was said at that meeting, but of Freedom House’s record in Uzbekistan." "Freedom House has been a consistent and harsh critic of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, as clearly demonstrated in press releases and in our annual assessments of that country," she wrote.

Freedom House has been critical of Saudi Arabiamarker and Chilemarker under Augusto Pinochet, classifying them as "Not Free." It was also strongly critical of the apartheid in South Africa and military dictatorships in Latin America.


Former US President Bill Clinton, giving a speech at a Freedom House breakfast, said:
I'm honored to be here with all of you and to be here at Freedom House.
For more than 50 years, Freedom House has been a voice for tolerance for human dignity.
People all over the world are better off because of your work.
And I'm very grateful that Freedom House has rallied this diverse and dynamic group.
It's not every day that the Carnegie Endowment, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Foreign Policy Council share the same masthead.

Writing in the conservative National Review Online, John R. Miller, a research professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School, states that

Freedom House has unwaveringly raised the standard of freedom in evaluating fascist countries, Communist regimes, and plain old, dictatorial thugocracies.
Its annual rankings are read and used in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as by the U.S.
State Department.
Policy and aid decisions are influenced by Freedom House’s report.
Those fighting for freedom in countries lacking it are encouraged or discouraged by what Freedom House’s report covers.
And sometimes — most importantly — their governments are moved to greater effort."

Miller nevertheless criticized the organization in 2007 as not paying enough attention to slavery in its reports. He wrote democracies such as Germany and India, but mostly repressive regimes, needed to be held to account for their lack of enforcement of laws against human trafficking and the bondage of some foreign workers.


See also

External links

Official links

Freedom House reports

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