Despite increasing political polarization around the democratic world—where it can now seem as though we’re living in starkly divided realities, formed by competing ideological views and media ecosystems—there’s a remarkably broad and resilient moral consensus on the foundational values of democracy and human rights.
You can see this in the global response to Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, widely interpreted not only as an illegitimate invasion of one country by another but as an attack by an autocratic power on an emerging democratic society—essentially, an attack by autocracy on democracy.
You can also see it in the global response to other challenges to democracy and human rights when they might break into the news—whether it’s Beijing’s designs on Taiwan or ongoing oppression of the Uyghurs in northwestern China; Moscow’s imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and other political dissidents; or Tehran’s crackdown on Iranian women and their pro-democratic allies since the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s morality police last year.
You can see it in the global response to the standing nightmare of the North Korean prison state, at one end of the spectrum, or attempts to undermine elections in established democracies like the United States or Brazil, at the other.
This consensus on the foundational values of democracy and human rights is far from total, even within democratic societies, but it’s pervasive and powerful—almost in defiance of the partisan divisions that shape so much of contemporary life. The Signal isn’t just part of this consensus; we’re defined by it. It’s central to our mission, generating some of the biggest questions we ask as we grapple to understand what’s happening in the world.
Which is why we’re delighted to be partnering with the Human Rights Foundation on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Oslo Freedom Forum. In 2009, HRF inaugurated the OFF to pay tribute to survivors of Communism and Nazism. They’ve since developed it into an annual event that raises global awareness, gives voice to the world’s democratic dissidents, and activates a network of support for them and resistance to autocracy throughout the year.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll be featuring conversations with participants in this year’s Forum, beginning Thursday with Jason Rezaian. Rezaian is an Iranian-American journalist, a columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison, about his experience in captivity in Iran.