Thursday, December 20, 2007

Putin Named Time's Person of the Year

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2007. This honor was bestowed upon Putin even though many, in Russia and the United States, feel that he has done little to further human rights in Russia, and has perhaps even diminished these rights.

Some Russians see this honor as acknowledging the role Putin has played in “helping to pull Russia out of the economic and social troubles of the 1990s”. In fact, it is reported that Russia’s economy grew “an average of 7 percent yearly for the past half-decade and that Moscow had repaid a foreign debt of nearly $200 billion.”

While reporting these economic successes, the magazine also acknowledges Putin’s “curtailment of democratic freedoms”. Similarly, opposition leaders in Russia “agreed Putin had been a newsmaker but accused him of oppressing rival political parties, rigging the recent State Duma elections and ignoring the needs of ordinary people.” Some in Russia have gone so far to claim that “antihero of the year” would be a more fitting title, and that the economic growth can be directly attributed to the rise in oil prices and such growth would have resulted with or without Putin.

Time defends its selection of Putin by claiming that this honor is only recognition of the fact that Putin had made the biggest impact on world events in 2007 and is not an endorsement of anything Putin has done. Unfortunately, allies of Putin are using this as support for the President, and state controlled television in Russia is only broadcasting the positives written about Putin in the article.

Although Time cannot in any way be held responsible for the use of the award by the Russian government and its supporters, the choice still seems rather questionable. In a year when a person such as Al Gore, a runner up for this award, has tried to positively affect the world and make others aware of the environment, it would seem that there may have been available choices that had similar impact on world events. Instead of choosing an individual who has done little in the way of advancing human rights in his country, and who now has further support for his “effective” leadership style, it appears that a better choice may have been an individual who has not done such damage to the advancement of these rights.

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