Mar 4, 2020 - World

Freedom recedes around the world

Expand chart
Reproduced from Freedom House; Map: Axios Visuals

The erosion of democracy around the world continued for the 14th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Why it matters: Year after year, many of the world’s democracies become less democratic. This year’s report draws particular attention to India, where policies targeting Muslims are “threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world.”

Breaking it down:

  • According to the rankings (out of 100), the most free countries in the world are Finland (100), Norway (100), Sweden (100), the Netherlands (99), Luxembourg (98), Uruguay (98) and Canada (98).
  • The least free are Syria (0), Turkmenistan (2), Eritrea (2), South Sudan (2) and North Korea (3).
  • The U.S. (86) ranks 52nd, between Slovakia and Belize.

The big picture: "Where once democracies might have acted in unison to support positive outcomes to global crises, disparate authoritarian states now frequently step into the breach and attempt to impose their will," the authors write.

  • In addition to the U.S. and India, they raise concerns about “antidemocratic tendencies” in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the rise of “extreme factions” in Spanish politics, and the populist turns of central European countries like Austria, Hungary and Poland.

Bad news:

  • Myanmar moved from “partly free” to “not free” because of deepening conflicts between the military and ethnic minorities.
  • Benin also fell to “partly free” after opposition parties were excluded from parliamentary elections.
  • El Salvador is now “partly free” because of violence and intimidation from criminal groups and politicization of the judiciary.
  • Senegal declined to “partly free” after opposition figures were barred from the presidential election
  • Indian-administered Kashmir moved to “not free” amid a lockdown there and the revocation of constitutional protections.

Good news:

  • Mauritania moved to “partly free” after a “credible” presidential election and peaceful transfer of power.
  • Thailand moved to “partly free” after direct military rule ended, at least nominally, following elections.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Free content gives relief to parents juggling kids and work at home

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Media outlets and e-learning companies are opening up access to free kids' content, tools and resources to parents who are struggling to entertain their kids at home while also working remotely.

Why it matters: As schools and offices both shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak, parents are trying to figure out how to do two full-time jobs at once. Access to free content and educational programs can help reduce that burden.

Coronavirus is being used to suppress press freedoms globally

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus is providing cover to autocrats, dictators, and even some democratically-elected leaders who were already looking for reasons to undermine the independent media.

Driving the news: Recent examples show the press is being shut out by the government under the guise of stopping misinformation from spreading about the pandemic.

Coronavirus tests world leaders like never before

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the coming months, the decisions world leaders make — and their ability to communicate them effectively — could determine whether millions live or die, and whether the global economy stays afloat.

What to watch: Nations are judging their leaders on a daily basis. They may ultimately be revered or reviled based on the decisions they make now. Some may emerge with new powers that last well beyond the outbreak.