2020 marked 15th straight year of declining world freedom: Freedom House

Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

Nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lived in a place that saw a decline in rights and freedoms in 2020, Freedom House, a United States-based think tank said in a new report, detailing the 15th consecutive year of shrinking global liberties.

According to the report, while 28 countries saw an improvement last year, declines in freedom were recorded in 73 others.

The report said: “As a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world in 2020, democracy’s defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes, shifting the international balance in favor of tyranny. Incumbent leaders increasingly used force to crush opponents and settle scores, sometimes in the name of public health, while beleaguered activists—lacking effective international support—faced heavy jail sentences, torture, or murder in many settings.”

Freedom House ranked 151 countries and 45 territories as either free, partly free or not free based on criteria that included electoral processes, political pluralism, government corruption, and freedom of expression and assembly, among others.

India went from free to partly free in 2020, as Freedom House accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP of cracking down on critics, scapegoating Muslims and tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.

The group, based in Washington, DC, also said governments have used the COVID-19 pandemic “to consolidate power and suppress dissent”.

The US has also seen an 11-point decline in freedom since 2020, the report found, making it one of the 25 countries to suffer the steepest drops over the 10-year period.

“The politically distorted health recommendations, partisan infighting, shockingly high and racially disparate coronavirus death rates, and police violence against protesters advocating for racial justice over the summer all underscored the United States’ systemic dysfunctions and made American democracy appear fundamentally unstable,” the report reads.

Freedom House also criticised China for exerting “malign influence” in 2020, including a crackdown on liberties in Hong Kong resulting from a national security law.