Pakistan declared 'partly free' in Freedom House annual report

Pakistan completes a decade as a “partly free” nation in Freedom House’s annual report measuring the rise and fall of global democracy.

Where the report describes 2017 as a year in which democracy faced a serious crisis, Islamabad maintains its rating of 4.5 at freedom with four in political rights and five in civil liberties – scoring 43 out of 100. It is pertinent to note, however, that Press and Net freedom have been concluded as “not free”. The full report for the country is yet to be published.

“Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world,” Freedom in the world states. “71 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains.”


The year 2017 also marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The number of countries designated as ‘Free’ stands at 88, “Partly Free” at 58 and 49 countries have been deemed “Not Free”.

Press freedom: myth and reality

China and Russia remain in the list of countries taking away people’s freedoms but an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties saw the United States retreating from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy.

“President Trump’s “America First” slogan, originally coined by isolationists seeking to block US involvement in the war against fascism, targeted traditional notions of collective global security and mutually beneficial trade. The administration’s hostility and scepticism toward binding international agreements on the environment, arms control, and other topics confirmed that a reorientation was taking shape,” the report observes.

“The core US institutions were attacked in 2017 by an administration that rejects established norms of ethical conduct across many fields of activity. President Trump himself has mingled the concerns of his business empire with his role as president, appointed family members to his senior staff, filled other high positions with lobbyists and representatives of special interests, and refused to abide by disclosure and transparency practices observed by his predecessors.”

Another major shift was seen in Turkey, which moved from “Partly Free” to “Not Free”.  The country’s “score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fights to impose personalised control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment.”

Myanmar’s press freedom in freefall

Meanwhile in Europe, right-wing populists won seats and rejected democratic values. “Reverberations from the 2015–16 refugee crisis continued to fuel the rise of xenophobic, far-right parties, which gained ground in elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria,” the report noted.

In the Middle-East, “authoritarian rulers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt asserted their interests in reckless ways that perpetuated long-running conflicts in Libya and Yemen and initiated a sudden attempt to blockade Qatar, a hub of international trade and transportation.”

The US is among the countries Freedom House analysis found to be nearing turning points in their democratic trajectory, deserving “special scrutiny during the coming year.”

Others include Afghanistan as it prepares for parliamentary elections amid opposition alliances crystallising before the long-overdue polls. “Crown Prince Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman’s controversial reform program is likely to cause even more upheaval in Saudi government and society, as small gains in social freedoms and efforts to attract foreign investors go hand in hand with attempts to quash dissent and fight off perceived opponents,” the report adds.

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