The Global Expression Report 2023, published today, reveals that the number of people living in countries that restrict freedom of expression is at the highest point in two decades: 80% of the global population has less freedom of expression than they did in the year 2000.
The report – which this year presents the data-driven study as an interactive set of maps and visualisations – measures the freedom of everyone, regardless of the nature of their work or role in society, to express opinions and beliefs, to communicate, and to access information. Each of the 161 countries and territories in the metric has a score between 0 and 100, based on 25 indicators. The score places them in an expression category.
Key findings include:
- More than 6 billion people are living with less freedom of expression then they did at the start of of the 21st century
- Only 13% of us now live in ‘open’ countries – fewer people than at any time this century so far
- 34% of the global population now lives in the country where freedom of expression is in ‘crisis’
This year’s data reveals that repression has increased for 80% of the global population: 6.3 billion people in 81 countries are living with less freedom than they had a decade ago. In the same period, only 21 countries comprising 452 million people saw an advance in their score.
The report reveals that fewer people live in ‘open’ countries than at any time within the last decade – only 13% of the global population. In 2012, the bottom three categories (‘restricted’, ‘highly restricted’ and ‘crisis’) held 48% of the population (under 3 billion people). Today, they hold 78%, more than 6 billion people.
Quinn McKew, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 said:
‘This year’s Global Expression Report shows very clearly: freedom of expression is in decline and under threat around the world. With 80% of us now living with less freedom of expression than at the start of the century, we need to ask ourselves the question: what can be done to reverse this trend?
‘While conflicts and power grabs prominently erode democracy and human rights, much of the decline comes from consistent, incremental erosion: changes in policy in the name of misguided understandings of “public safety” or “economic efficiency”, or gradual shifts in attitudes of those in power – in autocracies and democracies alike.
‘As the crackdown on free expression intensifies, so must our efforts to call out abuses of those in power – the big and the small – and advocate for solutions that put human rights at their heart. The global problems facing our societies can only be solved with more people being able to express themselves and have greater access to information, to hold power to account.’
Over the last decade, the Global Expression Score, the mean average of country scores, has seen a six-point decline (from 56 to 50). The Human Score, a population-weighted measure to show the human cost of repression, has dropped 13 points in just a decade (from 47 to 34), after remaining steady between 2000 and 2011.
Globally, power is moving away from democratic countries towards autocracies and elites who silence and repress populations they govern – in terms of numbers of people living in countries that do not respect freedom of expression, but also in other forms.
The economic weight of repressive countries is on the rise. In 2000, ‘open’ countries held 63% of the world’s economic power – in 2022, this number has declined to 39%, only a few percentage points more than is wielded by countries in ‘crisis’ (having formerly held more than 4 times as much).
In 2021, the metric registered two of the biggest one-year score drops ever recorded, with Myanmar and Afghanistan dropping 34 and 38 points respectively, following brutal non-democratic regime changes.
Rather than big one-year declines, data shows continuous consolidation in countries that experienced crackdowns and power grabs in recent years. Autocratic regimes continued to entrench their rule across the world, in places such as Hong Kong (score 14), Nicaragua (score 2), Turkey (score 7) or Belarus (score 2), silencing dissent and cracking down on protest to ensure their hold of power remains unchallenged.
Other countries in the Crisis category have occupied the bottom of the ranking for many years and show little change despite ongoing atrocities. Iran (score 4) responded to the popular uprising following the death of Jhina Mahsa Amini with a brutal crackdown, opening fire at protesters, carrying out executions, and introducing a range of new restrictive laws that further violate fundamental rights of people in Iran.
In Russia, the invasion of Ukraine was weaponised as an excuse for an even further crackdown on freedom of expression inside the country, which saw its score plummet further in 2022, from 15 to 7.
All country rankings and the global analysis of the data in the 2023 Global Expression Report are available on: www.globalexpressionreport.org
For more information, or to arrange an interview with ARTICLE 19 spokespeople, please contact [email protected]
About the Global Expression Report
The Global Expression Report (GxR) examines trends in our right to freedom of expression and information – globally, regionally, and nationally. The report is unique in that it provides a concrete measure and quantifiable perspective on expression: from posting online to protesting, investigating, and accessing the information needed to keep leaders accountable.
Since 2020, the GxR metric (which underpins the report) has enabled us to track freedom of expression across 161 countries, using 25 indicators, to create a score between 0 and 100 for every country. This score places each country in an expression category: Open, Less Restricted, Restricted, Highly Restricted, or Crisis.
The GxR team produces annual and periodic analyses based on the annual release of data by the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem). The V-Dem dataset is the world’s most authoritative data resource for examining the health of democracies around the world.