December 10th marks the sixtieth anniversary of Human Rights Day. On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 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," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "It transcends political and ethnic differences and national boundaries, even as it embraces humanity in all of its diversity," she said.
Over the past 6 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 the governments," said Secretary Rice.
In commemoration of Human Rights Day and Week, Secretary Rice presented awards to U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee and to the chief of the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka Michael DeTar, for their diplomatic efforts in support of human rights and democracy. Secretary Rice also bestowed the annual Freedom Defenders Award on Yulia Latynina, a courageous independent journalist, writer and radio host from Russia. "In Russia," said Secretary Rice, "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. Most of the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice. In September, the editor of an opposition website in Ingushetia was shot to death while in police custody.
In November, the editor-in-chief of a Khimki-based independent newspaper that had exposed environmental abuses was brutally assaulted. Since 1992, according to some sources, up to 300 journalists have been killed in Russia, making Russia the third deadliest country for journalists worldwide. Secretary Rice commended Ms. Latynina's outstanding bravery. "She has been outspoken in the defense of besieged fellow journalists at a time of growing self-censorship or forced silence," said Secretary Rice.
Yulia Latynina embodies the spirit of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That Declaration, Secretary Rice noted, "speaks directly to the desire inherent in every human heart for freedom."