Freedoms in India have reduced, according to a report from a U.S. thinktank, Freedom House, resulting in India being classified as ‘partly free’.
India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year (reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (i.e., based on 2020 data).
“The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its State-level allies continued to crack down on critics during the year…,” the report Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege said.
“The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus …,” it said.
“Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Mr. Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.
“The private media are vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians do occur. However, attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically under the Modi government, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years,” the report said, citing the use of security, defamation, sedition and contempt of court laws to quiet critical media voices.
“Separately, revelations of close relationships between politicians, business executives and lobbyists on one hand and leading media personalities and owners of media outlets, on the other, have dented public confidence in the press,” the report said.
U.S. democracy needs ‘sustained reform’
On the U.S., the Freedom House said the risky state of American democracy was on display during the January 6 attack on the Capitol. It listed what it called the Trump presidency’s “ unprecedented attacks” on American democracy (examples included were dismissing inspectors general to sowing mistrust over the electoral system). The U.S. dropped three points over one year, down to 83/100.
“ …The United States will need to work vigorously to strengthen its institutional safeguards, restore its civic norms and uphold the promise of its core principles for all segments of society if it is to protect its venerable democracy and regain global credibility.”
The report also mentions the complicity of the Republicans in Mr. Trump’s actions.
“Trump’s actions went unchecked by most lawmakers from his own party, with a stunning silence that undermined basic democratic tenets. Only a serious and sustained reform effort can repair the damage done during the Trump era to the perception and reality of basic rights and freedoms in the United States.”
Over the last 10 years, America’s freedom score declined by 11 points, making the U.S. one of 25 countries with the largest declines across the period.
‘Malign influence of China’
China, classified as ‘not free’, dropped a point from last year going down to 9/100.
“The malign influence of the regime in China, the world’s most populous dictatorship, was especially profound in 2020,” the report says citing Beijing’s disinformation and censorship campaign following the outbreak of COVID-19. The report also highlighted human rights abuses by China and its growing voice in multilateral institutions.
“Its efforts also featured increased meddling in the domestic political discourse of foreign democracies, transnational extensions of rights abuses common in mainland China, and the demolition of Hong Kong’s liberties and legal autonomy. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has gained clout in multilateral institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council, which the United States abandoned in 2018, as Beijing pushed a vision of so-called non-interference that allows abuses of democratic principles and human rights standards to go unpunished while the formation of autocratic alliances is promoted,” it said.