Global Freedoms Decline for Fourth Straight Year

The global economy wasn’t the only thing that contracted in 2009. Intensified repression against human rights defenders and civic activists around the world helped make 2009 a “rights recession,” watchdog group Freedom House says in its “Freedom of the World 2010” report.

2009 was the fourth consecutive year of decline, the longest continuous downward slide Freedom House has ever recorded. The group also noted that analysis of data between 2005 and 2009 shows “there have been growing pressures on freedom of expression, including press freedom, as well as on civic activists engaged in promoting political reform and respect for human rights, including the rights of workers to organize.” The report — a survey that assesses individuals’ ability to exercise their rights in 194 countries — has been published annually since 1972.

“The decline is global, affects countries with military and economic power, affects countries that had previously shown signs of reform potential, and is accompanied by enhanced persecution of political dissidents and independent journalists,” Arch Puddington, Freedom House Director of Research said in a press release. “To make matters worse, the most powerful authoritarian regimes have become more repressive, more influential in the international arena, and more uncompromising.”

Asia showed some significant improvements as a region, while Africa saw the steepest declines. The Middle East remained the most repressive region.

There were no surprises among countries designated as “Not Free” in the 2010 report, with nine countries — including Burma, Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — receiving the lowest possible scores.