Global press release
15 countries downgraded in new ratings report as civic freedoms continue to deteriorate16 March, 2023
- Civic freedoms are under severe attack in over half the world’s countries
- Downgraded countries include: Russia, Myanmar, Tunisia, Guatemala and the UK
- Top violations include: detention of protesters, attacks on the free press and a range of harassment tactics being used against activists and journalists
Civic freedoms are being curtailed and violated in a growing number of countries. The fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association have experienced a further decline, according to a new global report released today by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online research platform that tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories.
The new report, People Power Under Attack 2022, shows that more people than ever before live in countries where state and non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, injure and kill people for exercising their fundamental freedoms. More than two billion people or 28 percent of the world’s population live in countries rated as ‘closed’, the worst rating a country can receive by the CIVICUS Monitor including new countries and territories: Afghanistan, Myanmar, Russia, Hong Kong and Tajikistan. In total there are 27 countries and territories with this rating.
The attacks on civil society are not limited to authoritarian regimes, the operating environment of civil society organisations and activists is becoming more restricted in democratic states as well. In some of the more established democracies, the United Kingdom and Greece, civic freedoms have also eroded. Both countries have been downgraded to ‘obstructed’.
The latest edition of the global assessment also looks at the most common restrictions to civic rights. The detention of protesters, attacks on journalists and the harassment of civil society activists are some of the most prevalent violations from 2022. Protesters were detained in over 90 countries, while harassment tactics were used to impede the work of activists, journalists and civil society organisations in over 100 countries. Disturbingly, harassment incidents, including the use of travel bans and court summons, have been reported in 60% more countries compared to 2018 levels.
“The deterioration of civic space has reached alarming levels. Governments are deploying a range of tactics to stifle civil society and silence their critics” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS. “Without freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, democracy cannot function effectively, as people lose their most important tools to hold governments accountable and promote change.”
The release of this 5th global assessment comes ahead of the second Summit for Democracy to be held from 29-30 March in Costa Rica, which will be co-hosted by the Biden Administration. It is expected that over 100 governments will attend. Part of the Summit will be used to review progress on commitments made in 2021 by over half the world’s governments to defend democracy and human rights.
The global data released today also documents a number of positive developments. 10 countries have been upgraded and the report showcases a range of country case studies where civil society has scored important victories for human rights. Among them, Chile, which has been upgraded to ‘Narrowed’ a second tier rating, where the government has championed policies to protect journalists and has taken steps to redress the repression during the mass protests of 2019.
Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 490 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2022.
Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several data sources on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
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