More than half of the world cannot speak freely, according to a report | Freedom of expression

Half of the world’s population cannot freely express what they think, according to a new report on freedom of expression.

In its annual report, the advocacy group Article 19 found that the number of people facing a “crisis” in freedom of expression and information was the highest this century after a sharp increase from 34% in 2022 to 53% in 2023.

“At no time in the last 20 years have so many people been denied the benefits of open societies, such as the ability to express opinions, access free media or participate in free and open elections,” said the executive director of Article 19, Quinn McKew.

The report’s authors were particularly alarmed by the deterioration in India over the past 10 years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, changing its classification from “restricted” to “crisis.”

Ethiopia was also reclassified as in “crisis”, while eight other countries also experienced a deterioration in freedoms last year, including Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mongolia.

“Violations of freedoms occur every day and around the world, as leaders degrade our freedoms one by one. “Many do so through subtle policy changes presented in the name of ‘public safety,’ ‘morality,’ or ‘national security,’ tightening the net until there is no room to breathe,” McKew said.

The report considers that a country is in crisis when its freedom of expression and information is at the worst levels, with citizens unable to express themselves freely or express their dissent without punishment, and the media are censored and attacked.

In Kashmir, one of the regions of the world where journalists have described harsh repressive measures against their ability to work – including the withdrawal of their passports and a ban on leaving the country – one source said: “I think 10 times before going anywhere. place in particular because of my identity: as a Muslim and a journalist. I don’t even mention that I am Kashmiri; “That’s a whole new game.”

They said they fear being attacked by Hindu nationalists while reporting. “It is very difficult for a Muslim journalist to go to vulnerable places now,” they said.

The source said authorities have taken away their passports, meaning they can no longer travel for information or training.

“It has been suffocating,” they said. “I have lost a lot of work. My opportunities have been reduced so much that sometimes I feel like I want to leave journalism.”

While Article 19 lamented the state of free speech globally, the report showed hope for improvements in Brazil since Jair Bolsonaro was ousted from power, now classifying the country as “open” after previously labeling it as “restricted.” ”.

María Trajano of Article 19 Brazil said: “Brazil’s example gives us hope that change is possible. But it is also a reminder that rights and freedoms should never be taken for granted: the work to secure, strengthen and improve rights must always continue.”

The Guardian Foundation, a charity whose purpose is to promote global press freedom, and the Open Society Foundations, which contribute to The Guardian’s journalism, are among the organizations and governments donating funds to Article 19.