Freedom in the World 2017: Decline continues amid rising populism and autocracy

    Freedom in the World 2017: Decline continues amid rising populism and autocracy

    Feb.15, NY: Populist and nationalist forces made significant gains in democratic states in 2016, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, according to Freedom in the World 2017, Freedom House's annual report on political rights and civil liberties.

    The report finds 2016 to mark the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

    “We see leaders and nations pursuing their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints or regard for the shared benefits of global peace and freedom,” said Arch Puddington, one of the report's co-authors. “These trends are accelerating and starting to undo the international order of the past quarter-century, including the general respect for long-established norms for fundamental freedoms and democracy.”

    “In past years we generally saw declines in freedom among autocracies and dictatorships, but in 2016 it was established democracies that dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks,” Puddington said. Among the countries rated “Free” by the report, there were declines in Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.

    A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016. Only 36 registered gains. For the period since the 11-year slide began in 2006, 109 countries have seen a net decline, and only 60 have experienced a net improvement.

    The report describes major democracies mired in anxiety and indecision after events such as Britain's vote to leave the European Union, a series of antidemocratic moves by the new government in Poland, gains by xenophobic nationalist parties elsewhere in Europe, and the U.S. presidential victory of Donald Trump.

    At the same time, Russia displayed stunning hubris and hostility as it interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory. China also flouted international law, and unscrupulous leaders from South Sudan and Ethiopia to Thailand and the Philippines engaged in human rights violations of varying scale with impunity.

    The Oslo Times International News Network


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