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Majority of world population in countries with limited freedom of expression

The majority of the global population – 53% or 4.2 billion people – live in countries where freedom of expression is in ‘Crisis’. That’s more people than at any other time this century. In the last 10 years, 6.2 billion people across 78 countries experienced a deterioration of their freedom of expression. Only 303 million people across 18 countries saw improvement, freedom of expression organisation Article 19 says in its 2024 report. 

“At no point in the last 20 years have so many people been denied the benefits of open societies, including the ability to get online, have an independent press keep rulers accountable, or access credible information.” 

Less than a quarter (23%) of people live in countries where freedom of expression is considered ‘Open’ or ‘Less Restricted’, the report shows.

“The growth in population living in ‘Crisis’ countries has been driven by India, which shifted from the ‘Highly Restricted’ category last year. India has seen a 35-point decline in its score over the past decade – that is, since Narendra Modi became prime minister.” 

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“In that time, the country has declined in 24 out of the 25 freedom of expression indicators that make up the Global Expression metric.” 

“India’s decline has happened in plain sight – yet it’s a story not many want to talk about. Given that the Indian government touts itself as the ‘world’s largest democracy’, this deep and sustained clampdown on freedoms should be of major global concern.” 

However, the story of global expression decline is not limited to authoritarian or hybrid regimes. In the past 10 years, the report says:

  • The UK has seen a decline across 6 out of 25 indicators, including freedom from internet censorship and freedom of peaceful assembly, on which it ranks lower than the United States and most EU countries. 
  • The United States has declined across 9 indicators, including freedom of academic exchange and freedom of peaceful assembly: issues that converged in the recent pro-Palestine campus protests, where students have experienced severe police crackdowns nationwide.
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The report mentions Brazil as a positive development saying expression score jumped 26 points in the last year, bringing the country back into the ‘Open’ category from the ‘Restricted’ category, which it fell into when Jair Bolsonaro was elected president in 2019. He lost to Lula de Silva when trying to get re-elected in 2022.

“In the past year, Brazil has advanced across 17 out of 25 freedom of expression indicators, including freedom from harassment of journalists, civil society freedoms, and freedom of peaceful assembly.” 

“Through our annual Global Expression Reports over the past seven years, we’ve witnessed leaders across the globe take increasing control over what information we are fed and what we can see, say, or share with each other. The evidence has been there all long – and as we can see, these alarming trends are now crystallising”, Article 19 says in the report. 

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