U.S.-based rights watchdog Freedom House has released The Freedom in the World survey which provides an annual evaluation of the progress and decline of freedom in 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The average of the political rights and civil liberties ratings, known as the freedom rating, determines the overall status. Freedom in the World applies one of three broad category designations to each of the countries and territories included in the index: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free.
The report marks improvement of Georgia’s rating, the country though maintains the Partly Free ranking, Radio Liberty reports.
A Partly Free country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and a political landscape in which a single party enjoys dominance despite a certain degree of pluralism. In 2012 58 countries ranked as Partly Free.
“Georgia’s political rights rating improved from 4 to 3 due to the country’s first peaceful handover of power to an opposition party after parliamentary elections that were judged free and fair by international observers and featured more pluralistic media coverage,” reads the report. Georgia, along with Libya, according to the report, achieved electoral democracy status.
"The only bright spots [in the Eurasian region], really, are Georgia, which improved a bit; Armenia, which improved a bit; and Moldova," says Arch Puddington, Vice President for research at Freedom House reporting to RFE. "Otherwise, Eurasia is one massive sea of not-free countries." The report also mentions Abkhazia, included in the disputed territories list, as Partly Free.
"We have found that in Eurasia, the performance -- especially on political rights indicators -- is the worst in the world," says Arch Puddington. [It's] worse than in the Middle East, and this is something new."
According to the report, the "return of the iron fist in Russia" set the tone for the entire region. It says Russian President Vladimir Putin "heaped contempt on the values of open societies" last year, restricting public demonstrations, limiting the work of civil society, and inhibiting free expression in print and online. The report also highlights Moscow's decision to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country, but also criticizes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for "utterly fail[ing] to offer a credible response."
Along with Russia Tajikistan’s and Kazakhstan’s ratings have slumped, maintaining the Partly Free ranking though. Both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan fared only slightly better than Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, whose abysmal rights records kept them at the very bottom of Freedom House's list alongside Syria, Somalia, and North Korea.
Overall, the number of countries ranked as Free increased by three, and now stands at 90. 43 percent of the global population was found to live in "free" societies and 23 percent in "partly free" societies. Thirty-four percent of the world's people live in countries rated "not free."