Worst development in two decades for freedom of expression

Worst development in two decades for freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is suffering more dramatic downward shifts than at any time during the last two decades. Many of these occur as the result of power grabs or coups, but many are more of an erosion than a landslide – often under democratically elected populist leaders, freedom of expression organization Article 19 says in its 2022 report.

“Freedom of expression is under attack. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the most acute manifestation of the moment we are living through. Some viewed the aggression as surprising, unthinkable. But for those who had been paying attention, the global decline in freedom of expression over the past decade pointed to this present crisis in democracy.”

“Myanmar and Afghanistan both dropped two categories in just one year – the two biggest drops the metric has measured since it began in 2000.”

“The global data is unequivocal: the last 30 years of democratic advances have been eradicated. Another way is possible, but we have few beacons to follow. Following yet more evidence of atrocities committed in Xinjiang, Germany’s Economy Minister announced that the country will prioritise human rights in its dealings with China – we hope these words will be accompanied by action.”

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Article 19 stresses the need for more leaders to take a stand and act.

“The suppression of freedom of expression is not just a symptom of autocracy: it creates the environment for autocracy to flourish. Autocrats around the world, from Jair Bolsonaro and Victor Orbán to Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, are hiding in plain sight, as we turn a blind eye for reasons of trade or short[1]sighted diplomacy. We ignore their actions at our own peril. Without exception, this comes at a great long-term cost.”

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“We need concrete and decisive action to protect free expression – regardless of whether the violations happen thousands of miles away or in our own backyard. When the lights go out in one country, the world dims for all of us.

Key findings:

  • All regional scores have been stagnant or in decline over the last decade: The Americas; Asia and the Pacific; and Europe and Central Asia have declined. There are now two regions with no countries ranked open: Africa and the Middle East and North Africa.”
  • The Middle East and North Africa region is much less free than the other regions: as well as having a regional score well below the others, a majority of its population lives in countries in crisis.
  • 80% of the global population live with less freedom of expression than they had a decade ago. Only 7% have seen an improvement since 2011.
  • Only 15% of the global population live in open countries.
  • 19 countries saw shrinking freedom of expression environments from 2020 to 2021, compared to only one country between 2010 and 2011.
  • Nicaragua and Belarus are new entries to the bottom 10 for 2021. Portugal is a new entry into the top 10 and Uruguay dropped out this year. The entire top 10 is now composed of European countries

The top ten countries are all European:

Denmark

Switzerland

Sweden

Norway

Estonia

Finland

Ireland

Portugal

Belgium

Latvia

And the ten at the bottom are:

North Korea

Turkmenistan

Syria

Eritrea

Belarus

China

Cuba

Nicaragua

Saudi Arabia

Equatorial Guinea

 

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