Democracy Witnessing Downward Global Trend For The 12th Straight Year, Says Freedom House Report


Democracy is in crisis. The values it embodies—particularly the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—are under assault and in retreat globally, says Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization based in US and “dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.”

A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century.

Today, it is democracy that finds itself battered and weakened. For the 12th consecutive year, according to Freedom in the World,global freedom has been found to have declined. Countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains.

Democratic watchdog organization Freedom House has released its annual ranking of the world’s most free and the world's most suppressed nations. Only 45% of the world's countries are 'free', it said in its Freedom in the World 2018 report. This means less than half of the nations in the world are free. The US withdrew from its “leadership role in the struggle for human freedom,” it added.

According to organisation, which analyzed data from 195 countries over the 2017 calendar year, 88 countries were rated "free," 58 countries were rated "partly free," and 49 countries were rated "not free".


The study comes on the heels of other reports that find that for the 12th consecutive year global press freedom and democracy are declining, despite democracy being the preferred form of governmentaround the world.

One can clearly see that, democracy in 2017 was faced with its most serious crisis in decades as its basic tenets came under attack around the world. Some 71 countries suffered declines in freedom (i.e., political rights and civil liberties) in 2017, while only 35 enjoyed gains. Since 2006, when freedom's global decline began, 113 countries have suffered setbacks while only 62 enjoyed gains.

The guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law all came under attack as the countries suffered democratic setbacks.

“Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterised by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States' withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom,” the report stated.

“We see democracy in crisis this year, and that is the cumulative effect of continuing deteriorating conditions in really repressive countries, especially some really important countries, but also the big change that we have seen in the United States,” has said Sarah Repucci, who oversees the annual Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press reports.

Worst of the worst


The past year provided ample evidence that undemocratic rule itself can be catastrophic for regional and global stability, with or without active interference from major powers like Russia and China, the report said.

The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar; Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on his perceived opponents; the instability in West Asia, with authoritarian rulers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt asserting their interests in reckless ways; conflicts in Libya and Yemen; the blockade in Qatar; the humanitarian crisis produced in Venezuela; Brazil’s sprawling corruption investigations against its leaders; topped off with North Korea aggressively building up its nuclear arsenal, all show how 2017 was not a good year for global freedom.

While the U.S. score in the index has been declining since 2011 and it already ranked below a handful of other nations, including Canada, Germany and the U.K., the downward trend accelerated in 2017, according to the study.

The U.S. is not the only country suffering a democratic decay, though, according to Freedom House.

Freedom House has been evaluating the effects of political trends on individual freedoms since the 1950s.

Dramatic declines in freedom have been observed in almost every region of the world. Thus, according to the report, portends bad signs not just for the countries that have seen a decline but for the entire world.

“The spread of anti-democratic practices around the world is not merely a setback for fundamental freedoms. It poses economic and security risks. When more countries are free, all countries—including the United States—are safer and more prosperous. When more countries are autocratic and repressive, treaties and alliances crumble, nations and entire regions become unstable, and violent extremists have greater room to operate,” the report said.

Twelve years of decline


Between 2006 and 2018, 113 countries experienced a net decline in the index, while 62 improved, according to the report.

The report added:

“States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories—Turkey and Hungary, for example—are sliding into authoritarian rule. The military in Myanmar, which began a limited democratic opening in 2010, executed a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017 and rebuffed international criticism of its actions.

The world’s most powerful democracies are mired in seemingly intractable problems at home, including social and economic disparities, partisan fragmentation, terrorist attacks, and an influx of refugees that has strained alliances and increased fears of the 'other'.”

Meanwhile, this year, three countries improved their status and two fell. The Gambia and Uganda jumped from not free to partly free, while Timor-Leste improved from partly free to free. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe and Turkey were both downgraded from partly free to not free. Tunisia is the only Arab nation that Freedom House classifies as free.

India among 'free' countries


India got an aggregate score of 77 out of 100 on the freedom scale. It received a freedom rating of 2.5 out of seven (with one being most free and seven being least free).

On political rights, India got a rating of two, whereas, for civil rights, India got a rating of three. Overall, the press and net freedom status of the country was 'partly free', whereas the freedom status was registered as 'free'.

Freedom in one country depends on freedom for all

Democracies generally remain the world’s wealthiest societies, the most open to new ideas and opportunities, the least corrupt, and the most protective of individual liberties. When people around the globe are asked about their preferred political conditions, they embrace democracy’s ideals: honest elections, free speech, accountable government, and effective legal constraints on the police, military, and other institutions of authority.

In the 21st century, however, it is increasingly difficult to create and sustain these conditions in one country while ignoring them in another. The citizens and leaders of democracies must now recognize that to maintain their own freedoms, they must defend the rights of their counterparts in all countries. The reality of globalization is that our fates are interlinked.



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