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Global Erosion of Freedom and Iran's negative trend

freedomhouse-2010-iIn 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.

“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.”



The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the progress and decline of freedom in 194 countries and 14 select related and disputed territories. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. Each country and territory is rated on a seven-point scale for both political rights and civil liberties, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free, and then assigns each country and territory a broad category status of Free (for countries whose ratings average 1.0 to 2.5), Partly Free (3.0 to 5.0), or Not Free (5.5 to 7.0).


Electoral Democracies: The number of electoral democracies dropped by three and stands at 116. Developments in four countries—Honduras, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Niger—disqualified them from the electoral democracy list, while conditions in the Maldives improved enough for it to be added.


Key regional findings include

Middle East and North Africa: Repression in Iran led to score declines, and other countries in the region suffered a number of setbacks. Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen were all downgraded from Partly Free to Not Free. Declines were also noted in Morocco and the Palestinian Territories. Lebanon and Iraq registered improvements.

Western Europe and North America: A notable challenge faced by the Obama administration in the United States has been balancing security concerns with the promised rollback of controversial antiterrorism policies dating to the Bush administration. Western Europe has struggled to deal with the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries and the rise of anti-immigration policies, which contributed to declines in Switzerland and Malta.

Asia: Successful democratic elections were held in India, Indonesia, and Japan. Improvements were also noted in Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Mongolia. Declines were documented in Afghanistan after a deeply flawed presidential poll, and in the Philippines after the massacre of civilians and members of the press and the subsequent declaration of martial law.

Freedom in the World 2010 Checklist Questions



1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic possibility for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers,
totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral


1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
3. Is the government accountable



1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression? (Note: In cases where the media are state-controlled but offer pluralistic points of view, the survey gives the system credit.)
2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political
4. Is there open and free private discussion?


1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations? (Note: This includes civic organizations, interest groups, foundations, etc.)
3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


1. Is there an independent judiciary?
2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian
3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


1. Do citizens enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
2. Do citizens have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political
parties/organizations, or organized crime?
3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?

Source:  Freedom House