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UK Releases Its Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2016

The United Kingdom has a long example of encouraging the fair treatment of individuals from as far back as the early banning of slavery by the British parliament. At the same time, the Foreign Secretary’s Office continues to promote democracy around the world. Yet, this latest report shows a grim reality that democracy is under attack on multiple fronts throughout the international community.

One of the biggest areas where democracy is under siege is the limits being put on the press. In Syria, Yemen, and Libya, journalists and civil society activists were left vulnerable to intimidation and attack. Other countries dealing with conflict, like Syria and Yemen, are restricting democracy and freedom of expression and association.

Reporters Without Borders recorded the deaths of 78 journalists, citizen journalists or assistants in 2016. “Impunity for crimes against journalists remains a significant problem in many countries. Governments have used a number of pretexts for restricting media freedom, including security and the need to protect against defamation,” noted the report.

The Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report in 2016 noted that approximately 13% of the world’s population lives in a country with a free press, which is often defined as a country where the press is able to operate safely and where state intrusion is minimal.

Iran has been the focus of much of the current U.S. administration’s foreign policy, as President Trump is actively against the current regime. The UK report found that the human rights situation in the country hasn’t improved much. Areas of serious concern seem to focus on the frequent use of the death penalty, even under the current “moderate” presidency; freedom of religion; and freedom of expression.

Under the current regime, the death penalty is not limited to adults who commit violent crimes. Instead, juveniles and non-violent drug offenders are consistently receiving death sentences, despite this being a violation of international law.

The Iranian authorities have continued their attempts to limit the freedom of their people in cyberspace by monitoring social media and requiring the owners of most messaging apps to get permits from the government. Popular Telegram channels are reportedly being hacked by the Iranian cyber police and the owners of these channels are being interrogated.

The situation in Yemen and Syria is also bad, due in part to the conflicts that have reduced food supplies and left people without the basic necessities of life. Most of the basic political functions have shut down or become ineffective, leaving people with no options and little freedom.

This report is just one of several showcasing the issues throughout the Middle East. This is a region suffering from Iran’s unchecked influence and democracy, as well as the people of the region, are paying the price.

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