Those of you who live in the US should be aware of the recent freedom house ranking, and what it has to say about the state of our democracy. The US has fallen to an extremely low place on the list, making it the least free country in the world. However, some countries that are listed as “not free” are actually much freer than the US.
US democracy is in rapid decline
Despite its reputation as a champion of democracy, the United States is in rapid decline in the global rankings of political rights, according to a new report by Freedom House. The US has dropped in the ranking by three points in the last two years, and has moved out of the group of leading democracies.
The report identifies three recommendations for enhancing US democracy. First, the US should bolster its support for democratic principles through its foreign policy, especially in terms of defending human rights. Second, it should promote the use of a voting reform package. Third, it should strengthen government transparency and accountability.
The report also notes that the US has experienced a significant decline in civil liberties over the last decade, accelerating the country’s overall decline in the rankings. The Trump administration has taken steps to undermine government transparency, and it has penalized whistleblowers.
In addition, the US has been criticized for failing to lead democracies to confront a growing threat from Russia and China. In the past five years, 43 per cent of countries have experienced a decline in their scores in Freedom in the World.
The pandemic has accelerated pre-existing political trends and added new challenges for democracies. Some governments have adapted their institutions to handle the pandemic, while others have taken the opposite approach.
The most basic elements of a democratic system are under attack around the world. These include freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and effective legal constraints on authority. These elements are essential to a democracy. However, they can also pose economic and security risks.
A number of countries have experienced a net improvement in their scores over the past two years, but it is a measure of the US’s ongoing democratic decline that the United States’ score has fallen out of the leading democracies.
Serbia is a “hybrid regime”
Despite a recent spike in pollsters clapping, the Serbian government continues to enact restrictions on the free flow of information in the name of state security. It has also been claimed by the likes of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe that the ruling party controls the media. In the grand scheme of things, this is no good news.
The global state of democracy is in shambles, and a few countries in the top tier are in the process of being demoted a few notches. One of the reasons for this may be the lack of a coherent government – a situation which is a boon to the populace and a bane to the international business community. The most notable example of this is the ol’ fashioned communist state of Yugoslavia. Although it has recently emerged as one of the more stable nations of the Balkans, its stability is only as good as the state of the union. The same goes for its southern neighbor, Croatia, wherein the country’s recent political unrest has left the tyrpex in tatters. The only thing that can save it is to pull off a military coup or two.
The oh so sleazy oaf that is the Serbian government hasn’t exactly been a friendly neighbor. The country is also a hotbed of Islamist fervor, and is hardly a Muslim friendly destination. This may have been a factor in the recent spike in violence in the country.
Lithuania is one of the most free countries in the world
Despite some shortcomings, Lithuania is considered to be one of the most free countries in the world according to Freedom House’s annual report. The country ranked 52 out of 60 in 2021, the highest score to date.
Lithuania’s legislative framework generally protects the rights of individuals to operate private businesses and property rights. It also provides protections against exploitative working conditions. It also guarantees equality before the law.
Lithuanian laws protect the right to privacy and freedom of expression. However, some media owners attempt to influence political processes. The government has recently introduced restrictions on corporate donations to political parties. In a separate scandal, a vice president of a major business group was accused of giving bribes to political candidates.
Corruption remains a major problem in Lithuania. It was ranked 36th out of 141 counties in the World Economic Forum’s corruption survey.
The Special Investigation Service uncovered a high-profile corruption probe into the illegal activities of 48 individuals. Several other corruption scandals arose in local and state institutions. The biggest corruption scandal implicated high-level judges and attorneys.
Corruption was also reported in Lithuania’s parliament. The Special Investigation Service brought formal complaints against the Labor Party and the Liberal Movement.
The government continues to ban organizations associated with the former Soviet regime. It also actively prosecutes traffickers.
The Lithuanian Constitution upholds the principle of freedom of information. Every individual has the right to request information held by budgetary and local authority institutions.
Lithuania’s laws prevent discrimination based on gender and language. The constitution also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, members of the Romany minority face varying degrees of societal discrimination.
China is rated a “not free” country
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has been leading a national crackdown on perceived political opponents and ethnic minority groups. He has also increased censorship on the mainland. These tactics have been supplemented by the regime’s attempts to promote its agenda in the United Nations and other multilateral institutions.
Freedom House has been tracking global trends in freedom for more than four decades. In its Freedom in the World report, published annually, it measures the level of civil liberties and political rights in every nation. It rates countries on a scale from 0 to 100, with scores ranging from Not Free to Partly Free.
Freedom House’s report ranks China Partly Free, but it also ranks Hong Kong as Not Free. Freedom House is a non-partisan nonprofit organization that promotes democratic values and mobilizes the international community to take action.
Hong Kong is protected by an international covenant on civil and political rights. However, since its handover to China, freedoms have declined. The recent events in Hong Kong signal that China’s authoritarianism is on the rise.
CCP leaders have taken advantage of the protests in Hong Kong to further entrench their control. The ongoing events reflect a dramatic increase in the cost to oppose the CCP. In the past, much of what the CCP did was aimed at its domestic audience.
In addition to jailing prodemocracy activists, the CCP has also been attempting to impose a propagandistic curriculum in Hong Kong schools. In March, BBC China correspondent John Sudworth was forced to leave China after reporting on Xinjiang.
The Chinese regime is a major threat to democracy on the global stage. It has committed atrocities against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities. It has also committed mass arbitrary detentions, forced sterilizations, and other repressive practices. It has also used propaganda to change the rules of international norms.
New Zealand is a dedicated investigative unit to find and prosecute “hate speech”
Despite a slew of terrorist attacks and a tumultuous election season, New Zealanders are still relatively safe and sound. A dedicated investigative unit is tasked with finding and prosecuting “hate speech” of all stripes, while a well-trained police force does a good job of preventing mass debauchery. There are a few stragglers among the sandboxed, and one of them is in custody. As for the rest of the population, the good ol’ fashions are well rounded and sassy, with a few notable exceptions. It is for the latter that New Zealanders should be thankful they are not a bunch of morons. The country is one of the world’s most diverse countries, and has a decidedly liberal polo peddling demographic. The media and its kinks haven’t been entirely drained in the past, a feat made all the more noteworthy by the nudge nudge nudge nudge policy. The media has a healthy dose of dissent, and that is the best way to go about things.
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