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#29 - JRL 2008-222 - JRL Home
US Department of State
December 8, 2008
[Rice] Remarks At the 2008 International Human Rights Day Awards Ceremony
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC

SECRETARY RICE: This week, we are joining in solidarity with human rights defenders across the globe in marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration is celebrated by men and women of every culture and creed, every race and religion, in countries large and small, developed and developing. It transcends political and ethnic differences and national boundaries, even as it embraces humanity in all of its diversity. Indeed, the Declaration speaks directly to the desire inherent in every human heart for freedom.

Over the past six decades, democracy has spread across the globe, accompanied by remarkable gains for the rights that the Declaration enumerates. Yet, we are sobered by the fact that hundreds of millions of people are still denied fundamental freedoms by their governments.

The United States remains committed to championing what President Bush has called the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. To that end, and in commemoration of International Human Rights Week, I have the pleasure to bestow three awards today. The recipients were chosen out of an impressive group of nominees.

The Freedom Defenders Award is given each year to a foreign individual or nongovernmental organization that has shown exceptional courage and leadership. This year, the honoree is Yulia Latynina, an independent journalist, writer and radio host from Russia. In Russia, we are seeing disturbing efforts to increase control over, and pressure, the media, as part of the emergence of clearly authoritarian trends.

Members of the independent media have been the victims of violent and even deadly attacks committed by perpetrators, most of whom are yet to be brought to justice. In September, the owner of an opposition website in Ingushetia was shot to death while in police custody. And just last month, the editor-in-chief of a Khimki-based independent newspaper that had exposed environmental abuses was brutally assaulted. In the last fifteen years, some 300 journalists have been killed in Russia, making it the third deadliest country for journalists worldwide. In her investigative reporting and hard-hitting commentary, Yulia has exposed corruption and abuses of authority among government officials as well as egregious human rights violations by both government authorities and private actors, particularly in the North Caucasus. With great bravery, she has been outspoken in the defense of besieged fellow journalists at a time of growing self-censorship or forced silence, and I am deeply honored to present to Yulia Latynina the 2008 Freedom Defenders Award.


(The Award was presented.)