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Global freedom recession may be ‘bottoming out’: Freedom House


A new report from the US-based Freedom House group has said that despite overall global freedoms decreasing in 2022 for the 17th consecutive year, better prospects may be just around the corner.

The annual Freedom in the World report continued a stark assessment of global political rights and civil liberties, with 35 countries showing a drop in the group’s freedom index fueled by “war, coups d’état and attacks on democratic institutions by illiberal incumbents operators”.

Key catalysts for declining freedoms in 2022 included the Russian invasion of Ukraine, successive coups in Burkina Faso and efforts to consolidate power in Tunisia.

Still, the report’s authors noted that there may be cause for optimism. The 35 countries with declining freedoms in 2022 represented the lowest number in the category in 17 years of decline.

Meanwhile, with 34 countries showing marked improvement in freedoms, the gap between improving countries and declining countries is “the narrowest it has ever been through 17 consecutive years of decline,” the report said.

“Over the past year, there have been signs that the protracted global freedom recession may be reaching its nadir,” the report’s authors wrote, “paving the way for a future recovery.”

All told, Freedom House currently rates 84 of the world’s 195 countries as “free,” compared to 44 when the first survey was published in 1973.

The rest are rated as “not free” or “partially free”.

Signs of progress

The improvement in freedoms documented by Freedom House was driven by elections and power transfers in Latin America and Africa, as well as a rollback of COVID-19 restrictions that affected freedom of assembly and movement in eight countries, the report said.

Colombia showed the greatest improvement, gaining six points in the freedom index after the election victory of Gustavo Petro, the country’s first left-wing president.

Slovenia made significant gains after a 20-year high turnout saw the right-wing government replaced. Meanwhile, Lesotho moved forward after Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity party successfully replaced the incumbent government following an October election.

The report’s authors also noted that improvements were driven by “new evidence of the limits of authoritarian power,” citing Russia’s shortage of equipment and battlefield deficiencies during its invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion was accompanied by a lack of explicit support from allies including China, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia’s suspension from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The authors also cited the UN Security Council’s condemnation of Myanmar’s military government “after years of being protected by diplomats from Russia and China”, as well as Venezuela being denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in October.

Meanwhile, the report highlighted China’s U-turn on its zero-COVID pandemic containment policy “triggered in part by nationwide protests that followed a deadly house fire in Urumqi in late November.”

Declining freedoms

Still, the report offered a serious assessment of global freedoms in 2022.

Burkina Faso led the pullback, losing as much as 23 points after army officers overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January 2022.

Army-installed leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was overthrown in another coup later in September, with military captain Ibrahim Traore assuming leadership.

Both coups were sparked by concerns over the government’s handling of armed groups that control large parts of the country, but have been condemned by several regional organizations for derailing a return to the country’s constitutional government.

In Peru, the government’s deadly crackdown on protests following the impeachment and arrest of President Pedro Castillo after he attempted to suspend Congress in December also caused a drop in the Freedom House index.

Meanwhile, Ukraine fell second of all countries in the index, dropping 11 points after Russia’s invasion.

According to the report, Russian President Vladimir Putin “caused the death and injury of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides, the destruction of critical infrastructure, the displacement of millions of people from their homes, an increase in torture and sexual violence.” , and the intensification of the already harsh repression in Russia”.

Freedom of press and expression

For its part, Russia was one of 33 countries to score 0 out of 4 on Freedom’s media freedom indicator, a number that has grown from 14 in the past 17 years as “freedom for independent journalism has declined” around the world, the report said. .

The authors added that media freedom had come under pressure in at least 157 countries and territories assessed by 2022.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, “a multi-year media crackdown gained momentum,” with Moscow attempting to “eliminate domestic opposition,” the report said.

That included expanding laws targeting false information, allowing Russian authorities to more aggressively block access to independent media and block some foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, personal expression has also declined, with the number of countries scoring 0 out of 4 on the Freedom House indicator rising from six to 15 between 2005 and 2022.

A recent addition is Nicaragua in the wake of a crackdown on dissent by President Daniel Ortega.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Eritrea, China, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar are all among countries pointing to “an almost complete lack of freedom to express anti-government views,” the report said.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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