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Freedom of expression in under pressure globally.

Less freedom of expression today than 10 years ago

80% of citizens in the world have less freedom of expression today than a decade ago. That’s more than 6 billion people in more than 80 countries. Far more people are experiencing increases in repression than decreases regardless if measuring it over 1, 5 or 10 years, freedom of expression organisation Article 19’s annual Global Expression Report shows. The report comprises 161 countries. 

“There are more countries in which freedoms are in decline than countries seeing rises in expression”, the report says. 

“What’s more, the countries in decline contain many more people than countries in advance, which tend to have much smaller populations. 95% of countries that advanced in the last decade had populations of under 50 million people, while only 74% of countries that declined over the same period had populations of that size.”

Key findings:

  • In the last year, 363 million people across 12 countries experienced declines in their freedom of expression, while 165 million people across 7 countries saw advances.
  • In the last 5 years, 4.7 billion across 51 countries experienced declines in their freedom of expression, while only 673 million people in 25 countries saw advances.
  • In the last 10 years, 6.3 billion people across 81 countries experienced declines in their freedom of expression, while 452 million people in 21 countries saw advances.

The report shows that threats are posed not just by autocratic governments, but also by legislation and law enforcement within democratic structures that erode  human rights, as well as by corporate interests and organised crime. 

Read Also:  Threats against media freedom increasing in EU and candidate countries

“Where those groups and their interests overlap, freedoms are in acute danger”, Article 18 says.

“The bigger picture is grim: the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem, which produces the indicators for the Global Expression Report) shows that advances in global levels of democracy made over the last 35 years have been wiped out. People now experience limits on their democratic rights at levels not seen since 1986.”

“Conflict is the greatest and most immediate threat to free speech, particularly for those on the frontlines of expression: In 2022, journalists and human rights defenders were predominantly killed in countries suffering from conflicts, either internal or international.” 

“However, political violence targeting civilians also became more common – and more deadly – during 2022, with more than 125,700 events globally leading to over 145,500 reported fatalities.”

From the report:

= 401 human rights defenders were murdered in 2022, including 186 in Colombia, 50 in Ukraine, and 45 in Mexico. 48% of those murdered were defending land, environmental, and Indigenous peoples’ rights.

– 87 journalists were murdered in 2022 – 33 more than in 2021 – including 19 in Mexico and 10 in Ukraine. 64 more were missing in 2022. 

– At the end of 2022, 363 journalists were behind bars. The top jailers were Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus.

“While the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine dominated the global conflict landscape as well as the headlines in 2022, violence also intensified in places like Myanmar and the Sahel, as did criminal violence and conflict in Latin America and the Caribbean, while domestic unrest and state violence against protest escalated in places like Iran.” 

Read Also:  Complexity of freedom of expression


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