Why do people restrict others

More and more states are restricting freedom of expression and assembly

Demonstrating peacefully or posting critical posts on social media: In many countries around the world, residents cannot do this without restrictions. The current study "Atlas of civil society" by the evangelical aid organization Bread for the World examines what freedom looks like in 196 countries. Only around 260 million people - three percent of the world population - lived in 43 so-called "open" states, including Germany, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia, Cyprus, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Suriname in Latin America as well as smaller island states. There the state guarantees all people freedom of expression and assembly. Authorities are open to criticism. A year earlier it was 282 million people in 45 countries. Australia and Malta slipped out of the top category this year.

The atlas relies primarily on data from the Civicus Network for Citizenship. 196 countries are divided into five categories that show how much room there is for civic engagement. The categories are divided into "open" through "impaired", "restricted" and "suppressed" to "closed".

Persecution and harassment

The basic rights are therefore "impaired" in 42 states. This means that groups deemed critical of the government will be prosecuted or otherwise harassed. Freedom of the press is also restricted by political pressure or regulation. This applies to Albania, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Malta, Namibia, Austria, South Africa and the USA, among others.

49 states "restrict" the space of the 1.2 billion people who live there for civic engagement by monitoring, harassing or using excessive force during demonstrations. These include Bolivia, Brazil, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, Tunisia and Hungary.

Another three billion people face the fear of being monitored, intimidated, imprisoned, injured or even killed if they criticize those in power in their country. That is almost 40 percent of the "oppressed" world population who live in 38 countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela.

Torture and Death for Critics

In 24 countries the space is "closed" to critical actors, including Egypt, China, Cuba, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and the Central African Republic. The powerful get away with impunity if they imprison, mistreat or kill critics.

The authors of the report placed a thematic focus this year on women's rights. "Women are disproportionately often victims of digital, psychological and finally also physical violence up to politically motivated murder," said the President of Bread for the World, Cornelia F├╝llkrug-Weitzel. Human rights defenders are particularly affected by sexualized harassment, for example in social media, as well as sexualized violence and rape.

"The discrimination continues when murders are recorded and prosecuted as a relationship act and not as politically motivated attacks against women," she said. It is often women around the world who "carry development and reconciliation processes and initiate positive changes".

Focus on women

At the same time, it is widespread to attack the children and families of these women. Especially in Latin America and Eastern Europe, accusations against activists increased that they were using "gender ideology" to destabilize the social order and undermine the ability of their people to defend themselves. 14 percent of the reported attacks also targeted homosexual or transgender activists, followed by trade unions, environmental groups, young people, refugees and migrants.

sam / se (epd, kna)