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Freedom retreated in much of the world in 2008, the third year of global decline, says Freedom House's just released annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union led the downturn, while South Asia showed significant improvement.

Freedom House pegged the start of the global downturn to the period directly following the "colour revolutions" in Europe. "Powerful regimes worldwide have reacted to the 'colour revolutions' with calculated and forceful measures designed to suppress democratic reformers, international assistance to those reformers and ultimately the very idea of democracy itself," said Freedom House.

"Freedom in the World 2009" examines the state of freedom in all 193 countries and 16 strategic territories. The survey analyses developments that occurred in 2008 and assigns each country a freedom status - "free", "partly free" or "not free". Overall, 34 countries registered declines in freedom and 14 registered improvements.

The number of countries judged as "free" in 2008 stands at 89, representing 46 percent of the global population.

The number of "partly free" countries is 62, or 20 percent of the world's total population.

The report designates 42 countries as "not free", representing 34 percent of the world population. Eight received the survey's lowest possible ranking for both political rights and civil liberties: North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Sudan, Burma, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia. Two territories are in the same category: Tibet and Chechnya.

To read "Freedom in the World 2009", see:

(14 January 2009)

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