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Monday, February 21, 2011

Freedom House vs. HRW on Libya

Last month I compared how Freedom House rates countries against how much attention Human Rights Watch pays to them.

Libya is a special case, because in 2009 its Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, gushed about how wonderful things were there. As quoted by Omri Ceren:
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For the first time in memory, change is in the air in Libya. The brittle atmosphere of repression has started to fracture, giving way to expanded space for discussion and debate [and] proposals for legislative reform… I left more than one meeting stunned at the sudden openness of ordinary citizens, who criticized the government and challenged the status quo with newfound frankness. A group of journalists we met with in Tripoli complained about censorship… [b]ut that hadn’t stopped their newspapers… Quryna, one of two new semi private newspapers in Tripoli, features page after page of editorials criticizing bureaucratic misconduct and corruption… The spirit of reform, however slowly, has spread to the bureaucracy as well… the real impetus for the transformation rests squarely with a quasi-governmental organization, the Qaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development.

Yet even without this "Tripoli Spring," HRW wrote only 10 reports on Libya - fewer than for Greece Peru, or the Philippines, or Brazil, and far fewer than Israel, the US, the UK or India.

Freedom House, however, gave Libya the worst score possible - a 7 on civil liberties and a 7 on political rights.

It sure looks like Freedom House's scores correlate a lot better with reality than HRW reports do.