Freedom House: 2007 Saw Decline in World Freedom

Last year saw serious setbacks in the progress of political rights and civil liberties, according to the latest Freedom in the World report from Freedom House, released Jan. 16.

South Asia saw the most pronounced negative change, according to the report, but the region of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and parts of Africa also had significant declines in freedom.

The number of countries rated “Free,” “Partly Free,” and “Not Free,” at 90, 63 and 42 respectively, did not change significantly from 2006, but researchers found significant backward movement for several countries within each category, in many cases due to internal conflict.

One fifth of the world’s countries, encompassing 36 percent of the world’s population, became less free, according to the report, including several strategically important countries like Russia, Pakistan, Egypt and Venezuela. Pakistan, for example, witnessed a tumultuous year that saw anti-government demonstrations, increased terrorist attacks, a state of emergency, a major political assassination and an almost complete shutdown of the country’s media.

“A number of countries that had previously shown progress toward democracy have regressed, while none of the most influential Not Free states showed signs of improvement. As the second consecutive year that the survey has registered a global decline in political rights and civil liberties, friends of freedom worldwide have real cause for concern,” Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House, said in a press release.

Countries that ranked at the bottom of the scale — the worst of the worst — for 2007 were Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan and Uzbekistan

The above is an excerpt from this week’s Rights & Wrongs, a weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related news. To browse past installments of Rights & Wrongs, click here.

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