The 35th annual report assesses human rights conditions in 190 countries, excluding the United States.
"The struggle for human rights begins by telling the truth over and over again," Clinton said. "And this report represents a year of sustained truth-telling by one of the largest organizations documenting human rights conditions in the world, the United States State Department."
First on the negative ledger, Clinton said, is a widespread crackdown on civil society activists, citing instances monitors reported in Venezuela, Russia and China.
"For countries to progress toward truly democratic governance," Clinton said, "they need free and vibrant civil societies that can help governments understand and meet the needs of their people."
The second disturbing trend is countries "violating the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association by curtailing Internet freedom," Clinton said, noting more than 40 governments restrict access to the Internet through various means. "Digital activists have been tortured so they would reveal their passwords and implicate their colleagues."
The third trend of 2010 was the repression of vulnerable minorities, such as racial, ethnic and religious minorities along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Clinton said, citing Pakistan, Uganda, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria and Iran as violators.
But not all news was bad, Clinton said.
"We have seen improvements in the human rights situations in a number of countries, and we've also seen the uprisings of the past months in the Middle East and North Africa, where people are demanding their universal human rights," she said. "Societies flourish when they address human rights problems instead of suppressing them. Freedom from fear makes economies grow as citizens invest, innovate and participate."
The courage and determination of activists in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere has been inspirational, Clinton said.
"The United States will stand with those who seek to advance the causes of democracy and human rights wherever they may live, and we will stand with those who exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly in a peaceful way, whether in person, in print, or in pixels on the Internet," she said.
She also announced a new State Department Web site, humanrights.org, that will offer one-stop shopping for information about global human rights from across the U.S. government.