Democratic watchdog organization Freedom House has released its annual ranking of the world's most free and most suppressed nations. The report is a key barometer for global democracy and this year's edition found that global freedom has declined for the 15th straight year. 2020 was a turbulent year with the pandemic, violent conflict and economic and physical insecurity leading to democracy's defenders sustaining heavy losses against authoritarian foes which has resulted in a shift in the internatioal baance in favor of tyranny.
A total of 195 countries and 15 territories were analyzed on their levels of access to political rights and civil liberties with the number experiencing a deterioration in their freedom scores exceeding the number that saw improvement by the widest margin since 2006. In 2020, nearly 75 percent of the world's population lived under a government that saw its democracy score decline in the past year. An expansion in authoritarian rule together with a fading and inconsistent presence of major democracies on the international stage severely impacted human life and security with more goverments turning to military sources to resolve political disputes. A wide number of conflicts also continued to rage in 2020 including long-term wars in Libya and Yemen along with new ones such as Azerbaijan and Armenia's violent clash over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The slide of the world's biggest democracy from the status of Free to Partly Free was one of the most worrying aspects of the report. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and state-level allies continued to crack down on critics while a ham-fisted Covid-19 lockdown led to the unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers. The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the widespread scapegoating of Muslims for spreading Covid-19. "Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism", Freedom House noted.
The United States was also heavily criticized in the report with its democracy score falling from 86 to 83. Freedom House stated that the previous presidential administration in the U.S. attempted to undermine accountability for malfeasance and amplified false allegations of electoral fraud. That fed the population with mistrust and contributed to an insurrectionist mob storing Congress in January of this year. Freedom House warned that the U.S. "will need to work vigorously to strengthen its institutional safeguards, restore its civic norms, and uphold the promise of its core principles for all segments of society if it is to protect its venerable democracy and regain global credibility". Sweden, Norway and Finland had the highest freedom scores this year while Eritrea, South Sudan and Syria were the lowest ranked.