January 16, 2009
2007 A Bad Year for Freedom
Annual report logs second year of decline in liberty worldwide.
Freedom House puts nations and regions (such as Tibet, Palestine, and Kashmir) into three broad categories: "not free," "partly free," and "free," based on levels of political competition, civil liberties, independent media and civil activities, strife, and corruption. Religious freedom fits under a number of those factors.
46 percent of the world's population lives in "free" countries, while 36 percent lives in "not free" countries.
Of course, there's a wide range within each category. In 2007 only one country dropped down a category, and it would be possible for many countries to improve greatly and not be bumped up - but that didn't happen. Freedom House saw degeneration within the categories. The bad got worse, and so did the okay.
Countries that seemed to be taking steps towards greater freedom - Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Palestine, Lebanon, Nigeria, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia - backed away.
The survey also contains a warning for Westerners: "The flawed response to an upsurge in immigration in Europe and the U.S. has revealed potentially serious imperfections in these countries' democratic systems, especially in Western Europe. Furthermore, they continued to grapple with problems posed by the continued threat of Islamic terrorism."
There are some results that stand out on the map: Mongolia is a "free" island sandwiched between influential, "not free" Russia and China; Afghanistan is more free than Pakistan; Kosovo is the westernmost "not free" nation in Europe.
On a related note, Compass Direct, a news service focusing on international religious persecution, has put out its list of top stories of 2008. Among the annual roundups still to come: the Open Doors list of worst persecuting countries (last issued in February 2008) the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's annual report (last issued in April 2008) and the U.S. State Department's annual report (which was last issued in September 2008).