For the second consecutive year Freedom House, a US government-funded NGO that studies political freedom around the globe has ranked India’s status as a democracy and free society as “partly free”.
The latest annual report on global political rights and liberties – titled “Freedom in the World 2022 – The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule” – said leaders from Brazil to India have “taken or threatened a variety of anti-democratic actions, and the resulting breakdown in shared values among democracies has led to a weakening of these values on the international stage”.
Mike Abramowitz, the President of Freedom House, tweeted: “Democracy declined for the 16th year; only 1 in 5 people live in a free country; dictators are collaborating to undermine democracy.”
The report gives India a total score of 66 out of 100, one point less than 67 last year and observes:
“While India is a multiparty democracy, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population.”
The report further adds:
“The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized.”
The report highlighted the government’s response towards farmers protesting against the three agriculture laws and also took note of the Covid-19 pandemic in India and the resultant Information Technology Act. It noted that this Act restricted any content around poor handling of the health crisis.
In 2021, Freedom House has downgraded India to “partly free” after listing it as “free” in the reports for 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The Indian government then rejected all the findings and described them as “misleading, incorrect and misplaced”.
Naomi Canton a UK-based journalist tweeted: “The joke – Freedom House – has again awarded India “partly free” democracy status whilst giving Canada the highest score possible despite Canada jailing and beating up its own citizens and freezing their bank accounts for having the audacity to protest.”
Meanwhile, former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal warned Indian media to stay clear from “promoting propaganda against us [India] by US govt funded org…”
While Norway, Finland and Sweden are the freest countries with perfect 100 scores, Syria, Tibet and South Sudan are the least free in the world.
New Zealand, Canada and Australia which recently saw mass protests, violence, and suppression of freedom have surprisingly received scores of 99, 98 and 95 respectively.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to the latest Freedom House report.