[JURIST] US-based rights monitoring group Freedom House said Monday in its annual report on human rights conditions in countries around the world that Russia had dropped into the category of "not free" in the wake of various authoritarian moves this past year by the government of President Vladimir Putin. FH Executive Director Jennifer Windsor said:
Russia's step backwards into the Not Free category is the culmination of a growing trend under President Vladimir Putin to concentrate political authority, harass and intimidate the media, and politicize the country's law-enforcement system, These moves mark a dangerous and disturbing drift toward authoritarianism in Russia, made more worrisome by President Putin's recent heavy-handed meddling in political developments in neighboring countries such as Ukraine.In the report overall, 26 countries were reported as showing increases in levels of freedom in 2004, while 11 showed decline. The eight states rated as most repressive were Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan. The Freedom House press release is here. The full FH report is also available online. AP has more.