For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 10, 2008
Fact Sheet: Promoting Human Rights Worldwide
President Bush Meets With Dissident Bloggers And New Media Users To Commemorate Human Rights Day And The 60th Anniversary Of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
In Focus: Freedom Agenda
"Expanding freedom is more than a moral imperative it is the only realistic way to protect our people in the long run. ... Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other. Democracies address problems through the political process, instead of blaming outside scapegoats. Young people who can disagree openly with their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists they will join in defeating them."
--President George W. Bush
June 5, 2007
Today, President Bush will commemorate Human Rights Day and the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. To honor the day, President Bush is meeting with activists who use Internet blogs and new-media technologies to promote freedom in countries with restricted media environments six in person and two via videoconference including individuals from Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela. President Bush will discuss with them the challenges they confront in overcoming censorship
- Today, Mrs. Laura Bush highlighted Human Rights Day by delivering remarks at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City. She discussed efforts by the United States to help women in Afghanistan and Burma overcome oppression to secure basic rights.
Defending The Rights Of Independent Journalists And New-Media Users Fighting For Freedom Across The Globe
The Administration has helped users of new media to overcome censorship, report abuses, and advocate for freedom. U.S. international broadcasters funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) are overcoming censorship by gathering news from citizen journalists with cell phones, reporting the facts via SMS feeds and targeted e-mails, and encouraging citizens living in repressive regimes to join the information revolution with open discussions on radio and TV call-in shows and blogs. The BBG now offers diverse Internet products in all 60 broadcast languages, ranging from basic text to complex video and audio and live streaming.
- The BBG works with a network of non-governmental organizations to develop anti-web-censorship software and technical tools. These media freedom tools are available free of charge in English, Farsi, Kazakh, Mandarin, and Vietnamese at the websites of BBG's language services which are accessible through www.bbg.gov. The BBG supports broadcasting by radio, television, Internet and other new media by the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television.
- The Administration has increased funding for the BBG from $441 million in FY 2001 to more than $670 million in FY 2008. BBG's commitment to using new media to defend freedom of expression has helped increase the combined audience for all its broadcasts from 100 million to more than 175 million weekly since September 11, 2001.
Advancing The Freedom Agenda
President Bush has made advancing human rights around the world central to his presidency. Under President Bush's Freedom Agenda, the United States has stepped up efforts to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights worldwide. It is in our interest to continue liberty's advance because we know from history that the advance of freedom is necessary for our security and peace. Some of the Administration's efforts to support this goal include:
- Nearly doubling funding for democracy projects since 2001. The President's FY 2009 Budget requests more than $1.7 billion in funding for Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights up from less than $700 million in 2001. In addition, the FY 2009 Budget requests $80 million for the National Endowment for Democracy up from $31 million in 2001.
- Applied tough sanctions on oppressive regimes. Over the past seven years, the Administration has spoken out and enacted tough measures against human rights abuses by tyrannical regimes like those in Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe. The Administration has also spoken candidly about human rights with nations with whom America has good relations, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and China. President Bush has consistently called for the release of all prisoners of conscience worldwide.
- Establishing policies and practices to promote freedom worldwide. In July, the President issued National Security Presidential Directive 58: Institutionalizing the Freedom Agenda to offer a guidepost to future Administrations, setting out many of the policies and practices he has put in place to promote freedom worldwide.
- Shown solidarity with civil society activists: The President has personally met with more than 180 democratic and human rights activists, and independent journalists and their family from more than
35 countries. In 2007, the President awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet of Cuba, in recognition of Dr. Biscet's advocacy of non-violent democratic change in Cuba. Starting last year, the Secretary of State began presenting two awards annually to recognize those striving to advance human dignity:
- Freedom Defenders Award: This award recognizes a foreign activist or non-governmental organization that has demonstrated courage and an outstanding commitment to advancing liberty in the face of adversity. This year's recipient is Russian journalist Yulia Latynina.
- Diplomacy For Freedom Award: This award honors the U.S. Ambassador who best advances freedom by working to end tyranny and promote democracy using the full array of political, economic, diplomatic, and other tools. This year's recipient is U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee.
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