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Wed 13 Jan 2010 09:12 AM

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Middle East nations sink further on ‘freedom’ index

Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen downgraded on annual civil rights survey.

The Middle East remains the most repressive region in the world in terms of political rights and civil liberties, according to the latest release of US independent watchdog Freedom House’s annual survey, Freedom in the World 2010.Among the regional countries to be downgraded was Jordan – due to the recent decision to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament – Bahrain, and Yemen. All three nations were marked as ‘Not Free’ from having previously been upgraded to ‘Partly Free’.

Freedom House added that declines were also noticed in Morocco and the Palestinian Territories. Lebanon and Iraq were the only MENA nations to register improvements.

From the global perspective, overall declines of freedom outweighed gains in 2009 for the fourth year in a row, which represents the longest period of continuous decline in the nearly 40-year history of the report.

Declines were noted in 40 countries around the world, representing 20 percent of total polities.

“The news for 2009 is cause for real concern,” said Arch Puddington, Freedom House director of research.

“The decline is global, affects countries with military and economic power, affects countries that had previously shown signs of reform potential, and is accompanied by enhanced persecution of political dissidents and independent journalists.

“To make matters worse, the most powerful authoritarian regimes have become more repressive, more influential in the international arena, and more uncompromising,” Puddington added.

Freedom House ranks each nation with a freedom status – ‘Free’, ‘Partly Free’ or ‘Not Free’ – based in a scoring of key indicators.

The number of countries designated as ‘Free’ stands at 89. There are 58 ‘Partly Free’ nations, while 47 states are designated as ‘Not Free.’

Of the latter category, nine countries and one territory received the survey’s lowest possible rating:  Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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