COUNTRY RATING CHANGES

11 COUNTRIES DOWNGRADED IN NEW GLOBAL REPORT ON CIVIC FREEDOMS

  • A growing number of people are living in ‘closed’, ‘repressed’ and ‘obstructed’ countries
  • Downgraded countries include USA, Philippines, Guinea, Slovenia and Iraq
  • Top violations include:detention of protesters, censorship and attacks on journalists
  • Freedoms of speech, association and peaceful assembly deteriorated during COVID-19

The fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression continue to deteriorate across the world, according to a new report released today by the CIVICUS Monitor, a research collaboration that tracks fundamental freedoms in 196 countries. The new report, People Power Under Attack 2020, shows the number of people living in countries with significant civic space restrictions continues to increase year on year.

87 per cent of the world’s population now live in countries rated as ‘closed’, ‘repressed’ or ‘obstructed – an increase of over 4% from last year. Over a quarter of people live in countries with the worst rating, closed, where state and non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, injure and kill people for attempting to exercise their fundamental freedoms. China, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and 20 other countries fall under this category.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dire impact on civic freedoms globally. In times of crisis, space for open and constructive dialogue between governments and civil society, as well as access to prompt and reliable information, are fundamental. However, our research shows that governments have taken a different path and are using the pandemic as an opportunity to introduce or implement additional restrictions on civic freedoms.

Our data shows that the detention of protesters and the excessive use of force against them are the most common tactics being used by governing authorities to restrict the right to peaceful assembly. Although this was a common violation last year, authorities have been using the pandemic as an excuse to further restrict this right. Censorship, attacks on journalists, and the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders were also common tactics documented during the year.

“The use of detention as the main tactic to restrict protests only shows the hypocrisy of governments using COVID-19 as a pretence to crack down on protests – the virus is more likely to spread in confined spaces like prisons,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS. “Our research reflects a deepening civic space crisis across the globe and highlights how governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to further curtail rights, including by passing legislation to criminalise speech.”

This year, eleven countries have been downgraded and only two improved their rating. The CIVICUS Monitor is particularly concerned about civic space restrictions in the Americas, where four countries dropped a rating: Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, and the USA. Also alarming is the deterioration of civic space in West Africa, with four countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo – moving from obstructed to repressed.

There is growing concern about the decline of democratic and civic rights in Europe, with Slovenia also being downgraded. The decline in civic space conditions in Asia remains a cause of concern with the Philippines moving down from obstructed to repressed. MENA, the region with the most countries in the closed category, adds one more to the list, with Iraq moving from repressed to closed.

With limited but welcome improvements, DRC and Sudan improved their ratings, both moving from closed to repressed.

“In most regions this year the story around civic freedoms looks bleak. At a time when civic rights are needed more than ever to hold governments accountable, the space for this is further being restricted. It is crucial that progressive governments work closely with human rights defenders and civil society moving forward to halt this downward spiral and push back against the authoritarian forces at work,” said Belalba Barreto

Undeterred by restrictions, human rights defenders and civil society continue to operate, adapt and resist. Massive protests were often the key factor that led to positive changes. In Chile, mass protests forced the government to hold a referendum to change the constitution. In the USA, some states pledged to dismantle or undertake structural reform of their police forces following Black Lives Matter protests. While in Malawi, months of protests led to a historic rerun of the presidential elections and a transition of power.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates over the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

CHILE DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

Español

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Chile downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’
  • Concerns about continuing repression of protests
  • Harassment of rights defenders and journalists top violations in Latin America

Chile has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries. The findings are revealed today in the Monitor’s People Power Under Attack Report 2020, which shows that basic freedoms are backsliding across the globe: 87 per cent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries. This trend is reflected in Chile, where civic rights are declining.

An obstructed rating for civic space means that people in Chile are facing substantial restrictions when exercising democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The Monitor is extremely concerned about the systematic repression of protests and the criminalisation and violence against human rights defenders in Chile. Its rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and comes after a year of regular monitoring.

Last year Chile shocked the world when the authorities brutally repressed mass protests, resulting in the deaths of at least 27 protesters, with over 3,000 severely injured and more than 10,000 detained. In 2020, systematic repression continued even when demonstrations became sporadic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The police often used disproportionate force, beating protesters and using COVID-19 restrictions to justify the widespread detention of protesters. On Workers’ Day in May 2020, police detained not only protesters but also local journalists and international correspondents.

“The continued use of excessive force against protesters, even in small protests with social distancing, shows there is a growing pattern of repression in Chile. In 2019, authorities claimed their severe response was a reaction to violence in mass protests and yet this year, the brutality continued,” said Débora Leão, Latin America Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about attacks on human rights defenders in Chile. In June 2020, Mapuche leader Alejandro Treuquil was ambushed and killed after reporting the harassment of his community in La Araucanía. Since August 2020, the situation in this region has deteriorated sharply, and protests organised by the Mapuche peoples have been consistently repressed. On many occasions, state and non-state actors harassed and attacked Indigenous defenders and allies.

Criminalisation and smears against human rights defenders are also a growing problem in the country. For example, Chile’s police attempted to criminalise activists of the LasTesis feminist collective whose song, “A Rapist In Your Path,” became a worldwide anthem.

Rising hostility against civil society is a major threat to civic and democratic freedoms in Latin America. Intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists were the top violations documented regionally by the CIVICUS Monitor, taking place in at least 20 countries. Civic freedoms are not only deteriorating in Chile: significant declines in the respect for fundamental freedoms were also noted in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

“The mass protests showed the urgency of restructuring the police forces,” said Nicole Romo of the Community of Solidarity Organizations. “A lasting solution would require a long process of construction and change including short-term, medium-term and long-term measures. Where the constitutional convention is the space for dialogue and citizen participation, in which we hope will address the structural changes we need as a country. On October 25, Chile ratified, through a national plebiscite, the need to chart a new path to strengthen democracy, a history that we will begin to write together.”

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Chile is now rated OBSTRUCTED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Chile’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

COSTA RICA DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

Español

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Costa Rica downgraded from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’
  • Concerns about restrictive legislation and attacks on human rights defenders
  • Repression of protests and protest leaders also of concern

Costa Rica has been downgraded from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.

A narrowed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are increasingly being violated. The rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and comes after a year of regular monitoring. In Costa Rica, the Monitor is extremely concerned about attacks on human rights defenders, restrictive legislation, the repression of protests and the criminalisation of protest leaders.

The findings are revealed today in the Monitor’s People Power Under Attack report 2020, which shows that basic freedoms are backsliding across the globe: 87 percent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries. This downward trend is reflected in Costa Rica, where the past year saw an onslaught on human rights defenders.

Indigenous communities have faced repeated attacks and threats but their perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Jehry Rivera, a leader of the Brörán community of Térraba, was killed by a group of land invaders in February 2020. In the same month, Maleku leader Mainor Ortíz Delgado was shot after being subjected to repeated threats; the attackers continue to harass him and his relatives. Several others have faced similar harassment and violence. In September 2020, authorities announced they would archive the investigation on the 2019 murder of Bribri leader Serio Rojas.

“Costa Rica was once a human rights champion in the region but its commitment to the fundamental freedoms underpinning these rights has evidently declined,” said Débora Leão, Latin America Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS.

“In 2020, Indigenous and land rights defenders have been left to fend for themselves while a pervasive culture of impunity takes root. Meanwhile, even though Costa Rica has led negotiations on the Escazú Agreement, a landmark treaty for environmental governance and human rights, it still has not ratified it,” Leão continued.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about efforts to restrict peaceful protests and strikes. In January 2020, legislation was approved that severely limits workers’ rights and bans workers in several sectors from striking. The legislation was passed after public sector employees organised nationwide demonstrations against fiscal reform in 2018; the decision shows that legislators are determined to prevent people from protesting policy decisions. In addition, authorities have sought to criminalise leaders of the recent protests against tax increases, which erupted after a government proposal to borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We registered several concerning developments on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in the last year in Costa Rica,” said Gina Romero, Executive Director of Redlad, a research partner of the CIVICUS Monitor. “There have been continuous threats and intimidation against Indigenous rights defenders as well as an atmosphere of impunity and police repression in the recent protests. The fact that there are setbacks in a country that has generally had an open civic space shows that there must be a permanent fight for the guarantee of rights.”

Rising hostility against civil society is a major threat to civic and democratic freedoms in Latin America. Intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists were the top violations documented regionally by the CIVICUS Monitor, taking place in at least 20 countries.

Costa Rica’s declining respect for civic freedoms mirrors other countries in the region. Significant deterioration was also documented in Ecuador and Chile, both countries are now rated ‘obstructed’, indicating that people are facing substantial legal and practical constraints when trying to exercise their fundamental rights.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Costa Rica is now rated NARROWED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Costa Rica’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

CÔTE D’IVOIRE, GUINEA, NIGER AND TOGO DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

Français

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Civic space rating of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’
  • Civic space restrictions surrounding Presidential elections led to downgrades. Violations include killing of peaceful protesters and use of restrictive laws

Four countries in West Africa – Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo – have been downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor in its People Power Under Attack report 2020. A repressed rating is the second worst a country can receive and indicates that fundamental civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, are severely restricted.

The CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, conducts rating changes after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country.Last year Nigeria’s civic space rating was downgraded to repressed and two years ago Senegal’s rating dropped from narrowed to obstructed, indicating a worrying trend in West Africa. This year, across the globe basic freedoms deteriorated: 87 per cent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries.

In Côte d’Ivoire, dozens of people were killed in protests, unrest and violence prompted by President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term in August 2020, and surrounding the disputed presidential elections on 31 October 2020. In recent years authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have used repressive laws to limit freedom of expression, targeting rights defenders, online activists and journalists. Additionally, in April 2020 Côte d’Ivoire withdrew the right of individuals and civil society organisations to appeal directly to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

In Guinea, protests erupted last year and continued into 2020, following President Alpha Condé’s plans to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in October 2020, and the subsequent controversial constitutional referendum on 22 March 2020. Protests were met with excessive force, including live ammunition, with security forces killing dozens of people and arresting many more. Pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders were targeted and subjected to arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment and prosecution.

In Niger, civil society protests are almost systematically banned. 2020 was marked by the arbitrary arrest of several civil society leaders, journalists and bloggers. Eight civil society leaders were arrested following an anti-corruption protest. The protest was banned and dispersed by security forces. Journalists such as Samira Sabou have also been detained and judicially harassed. Restrictive legislation such as the 2019 Law on Cybercrime is also being used against activists and journalists, while a new allows authorities to intercept telephone calls under the pretext of fighting terrorism and transnational crime.

In Togo, civic space has been backsliding since the crackdown on anti-government opposition protests in 2017 demanding a return to the 1992 constitution that included a two term limit on presidents. Civic space violations include the killing of protesters, arrest and prosecution of human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, banning of civil society and opposition protests and censoring of media outlets, social media and journalists.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the adoption of restrictive laws in Togo, such as the 2018 Cybersecurity Law and a law that was introduced in 2019 to limit peaceful meetings and protests. Ahead of presidential elections in February 2020 the accreditation of civil society platform Concertation nationale de la société civile (CNSC) to observe the vote was revoked, while access to social media was blocked on two networks.

“Electoral processes in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo, with incumbent presidents holding onto power, saw many abuses, including the crackdown on protests and dissent, arrests of pro-democracy activists and judicial harassment of journalists among other violations. In Niger, anti-corruption activists were in particular targeted, and repressive laws used to muzzle critics,” said Pierre-Claver Dekpoh of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH-WAHRDN).

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo are now rated REPRESSED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit the homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

ECUADOR DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

Español

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Ecuador downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’
  • Concerns about assault on media freedom and repression of protests
  • Harassment of human rights defenders and journalists top violation in Latin America

Ecuador has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.

An obstructed rating for civic space means that people in Ecuador are facing substantial restrictions when exercising democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The CIVICUS Monitor is extremely concerned about the consistent repression of protests, the increasing hostility toward independent press, and the impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations. Its rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and comes after a year of regular monitoring.

The findings are revealed today in the Monitor’s People Power Under Attack report 2020, which shows that basic freedoms are backsliding across the globe: 87 percent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries. This trend is reflected in Ecuador.

“Improvements made after Lenín Moreno came to power in 2017, particularly regarding freedom of expression and access to information, have been overshadowed by the brutal repression of protests and an increase in attacks against journalists,” said Débora Leão, civic space researcher for CIVICUS.

The past year saw a regression in Ecuador’s modest steps towards creating an enabling environment for independent press. Assaults on the media intensified after the October 2019 protests against austerity, which included explosive attacks on Teleamazonas TV’s offices and journalist Víctor Aguirre’s home. Various journalists have also been threatened and subjected to smear campaigns for their work.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the recurrent use of excessive force against protesters. Demonstrators in Ecuador have followed COVID-19 sanitation protocols when gathering in large groups but there have been reports of law enforcement officers beating protesters and using water cannons to disperse peaceful assemblies. In addition, the authorities have used the pandemic as a pretext to push through regulation on use of force by police that is not in accordance with international standards.

These developments are all the more worrying as Ecuador has not dealt with widespread violations committed during last year’s mass demonstrations, when over a thousand protesters were injured and hundreds were detained within a few days. Early in 2020 the government dismissed a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights documenting over 400 testimonies of violence experienced by protesters. Meanwhile the country’s human rights defenders continue to be at risk for reporting violations and abuses. The Office of Ecuador’s Ombudsperson, for example, has denounced attempts to discredit its work; as a result, Ombudsperson Freddy Carrión Intriago has received death threats.

Rising hostility against civil society is a major threat to civic and democratic freedoms in Latin America. Intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists were the top violations documented regionally by the CIVICUS Monitor, taking place in at least 20 countries. Ecuador is not alone in Latin America: significant declines in the respect for fundamental freedoms were also documented in Chile and Costa Rica.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Ecuador is now rated OBSTRUCTED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Ecuador’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

IRAQ DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Iraq downgraded from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’
  • A closed rating means democratic freedoms are completely restricted in Iraq
  • Deadly attacks on protesters led to downgrade

Iraq has been downgraded from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor in its annual report, People Power Under Attack 2020. A closed rating for civic space is the worst given to a country and it means that democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are completely muzzled, in law and practice, in Iraq.

The CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, is extremely concerned about the extensive crackdown on freedom of expression, the continued use of lethal force by the authorities and armed militia on protesters, activists and journalists, and increased assassinations and extra judicial killings of activists. The rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and comes after a year of regular monitoring.

“The past year saw flagrant violations of the rights of Iraqi protesters. These included use of lethal force by authorities including live bullets, shotgun pellets, sound bombs and tear gas in cities across the country, killing hundreds of protesters and injuring thousands, and leading to the mass arrests of many others,” said Sylvia Mbataru, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS.

“Armed militia also conducted deliberate attacks, killings and abductions of protesters and civil society leaders. In sit-in protests in Najaf, Basra and Karbala, unknown attackers used live bullets, batons, and knives to disperse the protests.”

Violent and brutal attacks against protesters continued throughout the year. In June 2020, a gang armed with knives, pistols and assault bombs burned several protesters’ tents in Al-Tahrir Square and pursued peaceful demonstrator Khalid Abu Al-Iraq, trying to burn him and stab him with knives.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the blatant attacks, including assassinations, on activists and journalists; gunmen targeted, shot and killed journalists Ishtiaq Adel, Nizar Dhanoun, Ahmed Abdul Samad and Yousif Sattar in separate incidents.

Similarly, human rights defenders and civil society activists, including doctors and medical support staff, have been arrested, kidnapped, wounded and assassinated by unknown assailants across the country. Many of those who have died have been deliberately targeted, including human rights defender Thaer Karim Al-Tayyib, one of the leading organisers of the popular protests in the city of Diwaniyah, who died in a car bomb on 15 December.

The crackdown on the media in Iraq is also alarming. On several occasions, authorities have shut down media outlets and blocked the internet, for instance, the Reuters Agency was temporarily suspended in Iraq. The national media and communications regulator also ordered several TV channels and radio stations to be closed and warned other channels to be cautious in their reporting.

“Iraq is not alone in its attempts to crackdown on the rights of protesters, activists and journalists. The CIVICUS Monitor has found that violations against protesters and activists are worsening in other parts of the Middle East. This is reflected in places like Lebanon, where authorities mounted a violent response to year-long nationwide popular protests which saw increased repression of protesters and activists,” said Mbataru.

“Additionally, civil society is concerned that national lockdowns and other COVID-19 related restrictions have been used to heighten surveillance and excessively restrict further civic freedoms in countries such as Jordan and Qatar.”

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Iraq is now rated CLOSED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Iraq’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

PHILIPPINES DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Philippines downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’
  • Concerns about attacks on journalists and human rights defenders
  • Draconic new anti-terror law contributed to ratings change

The CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, has today downgraded the Philippines from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in its People Power Under Attack report 2020.

A repressed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are severely restricted in the Philippines. The rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and comes after a year of regular monitoring. The CIVICUS Monitor is extremely concerned about attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, the vilification and criminalisation of activists, the assault on press freedom and a new draconian anti-terror law.

“The Duterte government has incrementally chipped away at civic freedoms since it came to power in 2016 but this has further eroded over the last year. In 2020, we have seen systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on press freedoms and a pervasive culture of impunity take root,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher for the CIVICUS Monitor.

Human Rights Defenders murdered

Human rights defenders have been murdered with no accountability. Land rights activist Randall “Randy” Echanis, 72, who had been active in opposing a new anti-terrorism bill, was murdered inside his own home in Quezon City in August. Human rights activist Zara Alvarez, 39, was gunned down along Sta Maria Street in Bacolod City the same month. She was the former campaign and education director, and a paralegal in Negros Island for human rights group Karapatan; Zara had been receiving death threats for more than a year. No one has been held accountable for these killings. Both had been criminalised for their work and “red-tagged” – labelled as communists or terrorists by the government – which often puts activists at grave risk of being targeted by the state and pro-government militias.

Activists and journalists targeted

Activists have been imprisoned. Teresita Naul, a human rights defender, was arrested in March 2020 for trumped-up charges of being involved in an attack on a rebel base. Beatrice Belen, a member of women’s rights group Gabriela’s Cordillera, was arrested in October on fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Both remain in jail.

Journalists and critical media who speak out have been harrassed and attacked. Prominent journalist Maria Ressa, a vocal critic of Duterte, was found guilty of ‘cyber-libel’ in June, in a case seen as a test of the country’s media freedom. Top broadcaster ABS-CBN, that has produced numerous investigative reports highlighting rights violations, was forced off air in May and had their franchise renewal rejected by Congress.

Anti-terror law trumps rights

Human rights groups have raised serious concerns about the passage of a problematic anti-terror law that is inconsistent with international human rights standards and which the UN warns “dilutes human rights safeguards”.

“The shutdown of a major outlet, ABS-CBN, is shocking, especially during a pandemic when information is critical to saving lives. Threats and attacks against journalists have contributed to self-censorship and have had a chilling effect within the media sector. On top of this, there are serious concerns that the new anti-terrorism law, which has few safeguards, will institutionalise and facilitate an abuse of power,” said Benedict.

In a damning report on the Philippines presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2020, the UN Human Rights Office said that violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention, are pervasive in the country, and accountability virtually non-existent. Superficial national accountability mechanisms since announced by the Philippines appear to be simply attempts to evade international scrutiny. In an act of collective failure, the Human Rights Council responded with a profoundly weak resolution which will ensure that the safety of human rights defenders, actions of civil society, and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms remains at grave risk of worsening still further.

The Philippines is not alone in its attempts to restrict civic freedoms. The CIVICUS Monitor has found that these violations are happening in other parts of Southeast Asia. Governments have used restrictive laws to prosecute human rights defenders in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, while journalists and media outlets in Thailand and Malaysia have also been targeted for their reporting.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

The Philippines is now rated REPRESSED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Philippines’ homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

SLOVENIA DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

Slovenščina

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • Slovenia’s civic space rating downgraded from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’
  • Downgrade preceded by restrictions on media freedoms
  • Restrictions have increased under Prime Minister Janša’s government

Slovenia has been downgraded from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor in its latest report, People Power Under Attack 2020. A narrowed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are increasingly being violated.

The CIVICUS Monitor is a research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries; rating changes are conducted after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and come after a year of regular monitoring.

Slovenia has been downgraded due to the decline of space for civil society under Prime Minister Janez Janša’s government.

The CIVICUS Monitor is particularly concerned about the clamp down on media freedoms in Slovenia, including threats to journalists and independent media outlets. We are also alarmed by attacks on civil society groups working on culture, human rights, media freedom and the environment. To protest the government’s crackdown on civic space, every Friday since March 2020 bicycle protests have been taking place in the capital Ljubljana.

The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the deterioration of media independence and the working environment for journalists. The government has taken steps to diminish media independence with media outlets like Nova24 TV, Nova24 online and Planet TV increasingly being funded by parties close to Hungary’s authoritarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, a close ally of Janša known for his crackdown on independent media.

Recently, Slovenia’s government introduced a package of three media laws, opening the door to political interference as the government can now influence media management appointments at the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). Journalists are repeatedly facing attacks from the Prime Minister and the leading Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), to such an extent that the Council of Europe had to intervene, issuing a warning against the harassment and intimidation of journalists.

In addition, authorities have attempted to use COVID-19 as a pretext to further restrict the space for civil society organisations, through funding cuts and by burdening environmental NGOs with further barriers to their work. In the most recent attack on civic space, amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 18 NGOs in Metelkova are facing eviction from state-owned buildings.

“For a long time, Slovenia was the only country in the broader Central-Eastern Europe region that respected human rights and civic space. Unfortunately, this changed in March when Janez Janša’s government came into the office. Since then, journalists and NGOs in Slovenia have been frequent targets of smear campaigns and personalised attacks,” said Goran Forbici, director of CNVOS, Slovene NGO umbrella network.

“Under the pretence of anti-COVID measures, the government has introduced legislation and decrees that severely affect freedoms of association and expression, while public funds to civil society organisations in some areas have been cut or withheld without any legitimate reason,” Forbici continued.

Slovenia is not alone in its attempts to restrict civic space. The CIVICUS Monitor has found that restrictions on civil society organisations and the media are happening across Europe, in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Serbia, where authoritarian leaders are using COVID-19 as a pretext to curtail freedoms.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Slovenia is now rated NARROWED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Slovenia’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

USA DOWNGRADED AS CIVIC FREEDOMS DETERIORATE

8 DECEMBER, 2020

  • USA downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’
  • Concerns about restrictive laws and excessive force used against protesters
  • Attacks on journalists top violation documented this year

The USA has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor in its annual report, People Power Under Attack 2020.

An ‘obstructed’ rating for civic space means that people in the USA are facing substantial restrictions when exercising democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, is particularly concerned about restrictive laws, the excessive use of force against protesters, and an increasingly hostile environment for the press in the USA.

In the past year, millions of people joined Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice, denouncing police brutality perpetrated with impunity. Militarised law enforcement responded to people expressing these legitimate grievances with excessive force, and police violence against protesters escalated with minimal accountability. Within the first month of protests, over 10,000 protesters had been detained. In the following months, civil society groups documented consistent and widespread violations against protesters, including numerous cases of law enforcement unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets and impact rounds indiscriminately against them. On several occasions journalists, legal observers and medics were targeted.

“It’s troubling to see U.S. authorities implement laws and practices to repress and punish people who protest,” said Débora Leão, Americas Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS. “The deployment of federal law enforcement in the response to protests in cities like Portland and Chicago not only raised troubling constitutional questions, but also imposed increased legal penalties for protesters arrested by federal agents.”

This repressive response was preceded by a wave of legislation limiting people’s rights to peacefully protest. In recent years, several state legislatures enacted restrictive laws which, for example, criminalise protests near pipelines or set penalties for organising demonstrations on school and university campuses. Such laws have also been used to intimidate defenders and movements that stand up to corporate interests, such as climate justice activists.

This broader trend of “anti-protest” laws has continued this year at both state and federal levels. Some of the legislation proposed in 2020 would eliminate liability for drivers who hit demonstrators, create new felonies for civil disobedience tactics and, notably, strip access to ‘pandemic’ aid for people convicted of federal offences for their conduct in protests.

We are also concerned about attacks on journalists, the violation most frequently documented by the CIVICUS Monitor in the USA over the past year. On several occasions reporters were assaulted when attempting to conduct interviews, and many were detained or injured when covering protests. International and national correspondents experienced retaliation for reporting, harassment at border controls and bureaucratic restrictions. Far from being isolated cases, these incidents have taken place in an environment where independent media has been consistently vilified and delegitimised by public authorities and President Trump.

“This year’s protests were a call to action to address pervasive racism experienced by the Black community in the United States, said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS. “There is now a need to heal a divided nation by enabling the free exercise of fundamental freedoms by all and by reinforcing equal protection of the law. An improvement in domestic practice of democratic rights could also enhance the United States’ credibility abroad to promote these values as part of its foreign policy.”

The USA is not alone in its attempts to restrict civic space. Significant declines in the respect for fundamental freedoms were also documented elsewhere in the region: Chile, Costa Rica and Ecuador were also downgraded in our research.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

The USA is now rated OBSTRUCTED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit the USA’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

DRC’S CIVIC SPACE RATING UPGRADED FROM ‘CLOSED’ TO ‘REPRESSED’

  • DRC’s civic space rating improved from ‘closed’ to ‘repressed’
  • Civic space violations remain common, including the forceful dispersal of protests
  • Journalists and activists continue to work in an hostile environment

The DRC has been upgraded from ‘closed’ to ‘repressed’ in a new report by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.The report, People Power Under Attack 2020, also shows that basic freedoms are backsliding across the globe: 87 per cent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries.

This trend is mirrored in the DRC. Although its civic space rating has been upgraded to repressed, this is the second worst rating a country can receive and it indicates that democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are significantly constrained. The rating changed after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country.

Since President Félix Tshisekedi took power in January 2019, he has taken initial steps to open up democratic space, including the release of political prisoners. While this is an improvement from his predecessor, much remains to be done to fulfil the President’s promises to “ensure that every citizen is guaranteed the respect of the exercise of their fundamental rights” and turning the media into a ‘real fourth estate’.

The CIVICUS Monitor is extremely concerned about continuing violations of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and impunity for human rights abuses, including violations against civil society. Journalists and human rights defenders have been subject to threats, harassment, and arbitrary arrests, including on accusations of contempt of authorities. Some press offences, such as defamation, continue to be criminalised and this year several journalists have been detained or subjected to threats. The killing of community radio journalist Papy Mahamba Mumbere on 2 November 2020 at his home in Lwemba, Ituri province, illustrates the hostile environment for journalists in DRC.

Meanwhile, many protests have been dispersed with excessive force, including the use of live ammunition. Freddy Kambale, activist for the social movement LUCHA, was killed in May 2020 by live ammunition during a peaceful protest against increasing insecurity in North Kivu. At least 10 people were killed in protests against violence against civilians by rebel militia; protesters were also criticising the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) for its failure to protect civilians.

The DRC is not alone with regards to these civic space violations. The CIVICUS Monitor has found that the detention of journalists, the disruption of protests, and censorship are the top three violations in Africa. Journalists are regularly subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, in countries including Cameroon, South Sudan and Somalia. Protest disruption was reported in 21 countries, with protesters killed in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Mali.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted 516 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

The DRC is now rated REPRESSED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit DRC’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

SUDAN’S CIVIC SPACE RATING UPGRADED

Sudan has been upgraded from ‘closed’ to ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor in its People Power Under Attack 2020 report. A repressed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, are significantly constrained in Sudan. Although this is a positive development, ‘repressed’ is the second worst rating a country can have – there is still a long way to go before Sudanese people can exercise their fundamental human rights.

The CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, changed Sudan’s rating after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country.

The upgrade is related to the formation of the transitional government and some early reform efforts to assist the work of journalists and media professionals. In a welcomed move, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok promised to promote freedom of expression and media independence in Sudan.

There has also been an improvement in the environment for civil society organisations, with more associations being able to register, including those in exile. In comparison to the Al-Bashir period, more protests have been staged.

However, the CIVICUS Monitor is still deeply concerned about intimidation, detention and attacks that journalists continue to face. This year, a photographer was beaten by police and taken to the police station for photographing long queues at petrol stations. Another journalist was arrested, and later released on bail, on charges of “information crimes” for a Facebook post about alleged corruption in the former governor’s office. During COVID-19, journalists reported that they were unable to do their jobs due to being frequently stopped at borders and checkpoints.

Sudanese artists have also been targeted – five artists were sentenced to two months in prison and a fine on charges of “disturbing public peace” and “public nuisance,” after a neighbour filed a noise complaint to a cultural centre where they were rehearsing.

On several occasions, authorities have repressed protests through the use of excessive force and detention of protesters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, protests against poor living conditions, the economy and over political reforms continued. During May and June, thousands gathered in remembrance of the one year anniversary of protesters being killed during a sit in, the year before. In one protest police beat protesters and used tear gas.

Sudan is not alone when it comes to civic space violations. The CIVICUS Monitor has found that the detention of journalists, the disruption of protests, and censorship are the top three violations in Africa. Journalists are regularly subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment in countries including Cameroon, South Sudan and Somalia, while protest disruption was reported in 21 countries. Censorship comes in the form of blocking or disrupting the internet and social media, suspending media outlets and intimidating and harassing critics.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 500 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2020. Civic space in 196 countries is categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Sudan is now rated REPRESSED on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Sudan’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information and check back regularly for the latest updates.

Via https://findings2020.monitor.civicus.org/rating-changes.html