WASHINGTON – The number of countries restricting the political rights and civil liberties of their citizens has risen for the fifth consecutive year.
The latest edition of Freedom House’s annual survey rated conditions during 2010 in 194 countries and 14 territories.
According to the report,Freedom in the World 2011: The Authoritarian Challenge to Democracy,released Thursday , the multiyear spate of backsliding in global freedom is the longest of its kind since the survey was first published in 1972. Freedom House advocates for global freedom.
On a more positive note,the survey says the decline for 2010 was less extensive than in some past years. The number of countries exhibiting declines last year was 25. Eleven countries gained freedom.
The most notable changes occurred in Mexico and Ukraine,both of which dropped from “free” to “partly free.” Other countries showing declines include Egypt,Rwanda and Sri Lanka. Countries with important gains include Colombia,Kenya,Moldova,the Philippines and Tanzania.
“The global freedom conditions are currently fragile and are eroding further,” Arch Puddington,director of research at Freedom House said at a press conference to release the survey findings.
The trends that have afflicted the freedom include violence and organized crimes,economic crisis and freedom gaps in Muslim-majority countries.
Another source of concern was the continued poor performances of countries in the Middle East and North Africa,some of which have deepened their multiyear decline from an already-low democratic baseline,the report said.
In contrast,the survey reports modest improvements in countries of the former Soviet Union. Moldova,Georgia,Kyrgyzstan and others make mildly positive gains.
Among the worst cases identified by the survey are North Korea,Turkmenistan,Uzbekistan,Libya,Sudan,Burma,Guinea and Eritrea,each of which has been awarded the survey’s lowest possible rating of 7 for both political rights and civil liberties.
To compile the report,researchers ask a series of questions about the electoral process,political pluralism and participation,how well the government functions,freedom of expression,the rule of law and individual rights. It assigns countries a score,then rates them as free,partly free or not free.
Michael H. Posner,assistant secretary of state for the bureau of democracy,human rights and labor,said the world needs to navigate changes to accommodate improvements. He said change comes from people in a society,and those societies can amplify their voices.
In addition to its overall finding of a fifth year of “freedom recession,” the report also reflects a number of developments that may be cause for optimism.
It notes that the global economic downturn has not triggered a major reversal for democratic institutions where the economic impact has been greatest.
While South Asia remains a source of political volatility,the survey shows that the region has experienced more gains than setbacks for democracy in recent years.
Freedom in the World,Freedom House’s flagship publication,is an annual assessment of global political rights and civil liberties that identifies trends in democracy and tracks improvements and setbacks in freedom worldwide.