The 2023 edition of the Freedom in the World report, produced by US nonprofit Freedom House, was released today. This is the 50th year of the study, which tracks global trends and compiles individual country reports on political rights and liberties. As a mark of how much the world has changed in that period, Freedom House noted that in its first report, in 1973, only 44 of 148 countries — less than 30% — were rated as free. Today, 84 out of 195 nations — or 43% — earn that distinction.
But the news since 2005 has not been good. According to the report, global freedom declined for the 17th consecutive year in 2022. One hopeful sign: 34 countries made overall improvements while 35 countries declined in the rankings — the smallest gap between improving and declining countries in 17 years, perhaps indicating a positive turning point. More competitive elections in Africa and Latin America and the rolling back of pandemic-related restrictions — which curtailed freedom of assembly and freedom of expression — drove the gains.
Freedom House’s report also noted that while autocrats and authoritarian regimes are “far from infallible,” their own misconduct or corrupt practices often “provide openings for democratic forces.”
Of all the indicators tracked in the report, freedom of expression has fallen the sharpest; infringement on freedom of expression is a key driver of global democratic decline. Over the past 17 years, the number of countries scoring 0 out of 4 on media freedom has swelled from 14 to 33. In the past year, media freedom came under pressure in at least 157 countries and territories, out of 195 included in the report.
Colombia had the largest score improvement, followed by Slovenia and Kosovo. Major declines came from Tunisia, Hungary, and Russia.
Read the full report here.