Washington Freedom was on the march downward in 2008, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union, a private democracy watchdog organization reported.
It was the third year in a row that Freedom House had judged a drop in global freedom, though the pace of the decline slowed, thanks in part to significant improvements in South Asia, including Pakistan.
The group analyzed 193 countries and found 89 were free, representing 46 percent of the global population. That total was one fewer than in 2007; Senegal no longer was a member of the free club.
By comparison, 42 countries earned the “not free” designation. They account for 34 percent of the population — with just one “not free” nation, China, accounting for nearly three-fifths of that total.
With the biggest setbacks in sub-Saharan Africa, declines in freedom were noted in Senegal, Mauritania, Congo, Guinea, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. There were gains in Zambia, Angola, Comoros and Ivory Coast. Arch Puddington, director of research for Freedom House, said there was no single identifiable reason for the decline in Africa.
The former Soviet Union was the only region to show consistent decline during the past decade. Among the factors cited were the presence of a number of “petro-authoritarian” states in the region, such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and the continued authoritarian legacy of the Soviet Union and the strong influence of Russia on its neighbors.