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Global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009, says Freedom House annual survey

Freedom in the World 2010: Global erosion of freedom

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Washington, January 12, 2010 - For the fourth consecutive year, global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009, as measured by Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2010. This represents the longest continuous period of decline for global freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report.

In a year marked by intensified repression against human rights defenders and civic activists, declines for freedom were registered in 40 countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union, representing 20 percent of the world's total polities. Authoritarian states including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam became more repressive. Declines in freedom also occurred in countries that had registered positive trends in previous years, including Bahrain, Jordan, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan.

"The news for 2009 is cause for real concern," said Arch Puddington, Freedom House Director of Research. "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. To make matters worse, the most powerful authoritarian regimes have become more repressive, more influential in the international arena, and more uncompromising."

Published since 1972, Freedom in the World examines the ability of individuals to exercise their political and civil rights in 194 countries and 14 territories around the world. The survey analyzes developments that occurred in 2009 and assigns each country a freedom status - Free, Partly Free, or Not Free - based on a scoring of performance on key indicators.

In this year's findings, five countries moved into Not Free status, and the number of electoral democracies declined to the lowest level since 1995. Sixteen countries made notable gains, with two countries improving their overall freedom status. The most significant improvements in 2009 occurred in Asia.

The Middle East remained the most repressive region in the world, and some countries that had previously moved forward slipped back from Partly Free into the Not Free category. Africa suffered the most significant declines, and four countries experienced coups.

This year's findings reflect the growing pressures on journalists and new media, restrictions on freedom of association, and repression aimed at civic activists engaged in promoting political reform and respect for human rights.

"In 2009, we saw a disturbing erosion of some of the most fundamental freedoms - freedom of expression and association - and an increase in attacks on frontline activists in these areas," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. "From the brutal repression on the streets of Iran, to the sweeping detention of Charter 08 members in China and murders of journalists and human rights activists in Russia, we have seen a worldwide crackdown against individuals asserting their universally accepted rights over the last five years."

Click here to access the full text of the press release and the 2010 report

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