A wave of authoritarianism is churning from East to West and assailing civil society. Autocrats are threatening democracy, while their regimes portray NGOs as Trojan horses for foreign interference.
The resurgence of authoritarianism is impacting countries across the globe, no matter what their form of government. “In the Crosshairs of the State” documents this worldwide phenomenon using the examples of India, Russia, and Poland and shows how civil society is being repressed, and what impact this can have on the future of democracy.
When populists and autocrats wield power, the first victims are civil liberties. However, regimes aren’t stopping at attacking and imprisoning activists – they go as far as criminalizing entire groups and freezing their funds. These governments are increasingly targeting NGOs and other players in civil society that demand democracy and assert human rights or protest about social grievances and environmental destruction. The methods of choice are defamation campaigns, repression, and criminalization.
In the past few years, certain countries have passed over 60 laws specifically aiming to systematically impede NGOs’ work or completely put an end to it. The root causes are wide-ranging, but it all boils down to rulers’ desire to remain in power and protect their economic interests. Beyond authoritarian wielders of power, democratic governments are increasingly clamping down on independent and critical players, too.
Are we experiencing a full-on global assault on civil society? What happens when the driving force of democracy – the people themselves – is silenced? How can we counter this development? Film director Sebastian Weis investigates these question, relating the situations in India, Russia, and Poland chapter by chapter, with each country representing an overarching issue. India faces environmental destruction, Russians are seeing human rights be eroded, and in Poland women’s rights are under attack.