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Freedom House takes an in-depth look at authoritarianism

Freedom House, in collaboration with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, has released a major report investigating how dictatorships control information and why they get away with it.

Culminating from a two-year study, the report, "Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians", chronicles how five of the globe's most influential authoritarian states - China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Pakistan - are actively subverting democratic movements, strictly censoring the information their citizens can access and intimidating journalists and civil society.

In Venezuela, for example, private media are obliged to broadcast 70 minutes of free government publicity each week and a "social responsibility law" makes it a crime for the media to issue information that is deemed disrespectful of officials. In Iran, online bloggers are routinely jailed and the domestic broadcast media is tightly vetted. In Russia, the Kremlin either directly or indirectly manages the daily output of most of the major newspapers and 20 Radio Free Europe affiliates have shut down since 2005, mostly as a result of political pressure.

At the same time, today's authoritarian regimes are also employing softer, behind-the-scenes tactics of curtailing democracy and free expression. For example, governments are pouring money into state-owned media companies, which are expanding their global reach, and offering lucrative commercial incentives to media companies that toe the line.

On a broader level, the report argues the five countries are finding strength in numbers by forming "ad hoc coalitions" at the United Nations that act as counterweights to groups promoting human rights and democracy.

The undertone to the 93-page report is that, as democratic governments focus on security and economic issues, the human rights violations of authoritarian countries are going unchecked and, as a result, countries espousing anti-democratic values are expanding their influence.

Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians

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