Autocratisation Goes Viral Report

News: Fifth annual democracy report, titled ‘Autocratisation goes viral’, has been released by Sweden’s organisation Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute. The report summarises the state of democracies of the world against the backdrop of developments that have taken place over the past decade.

About V-Dem:

  • The V-Dem Institute, an independent research organisation founded in 2014 by Swedish political scientist Staffan Lindberg. It produces its annual report on the state of democracy around the world based on a dataset of almost 30 million data points for 202 countries.

Highlights of the report: 

Global Scenario:

  • The global decline of liberal democracies was ‘steep’ in the past 10 years in the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
  • Apart from India, countries like Brazil and Turkey figured among the top 10 countries that slipped in rankings that were part of the G-20

India specific findings:

  • India’s position has been downgraded from “the world’s largest democracy” to an “electoral autocracy”.
  • Reasons behind the down grade: “muzzling” of the media, and overuse of defamation and sedition laws.
  • In censorship, India is now as autocratic as is Pakistan, and worse than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • The use of defamation “frequently used to silence journalists” and the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have placed constraints on civil society and gone against the Constitution’s commitment to secularism.
  • Universities and authorities have also punished students and activists in universities engaging in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).”
  • However, the report notes that civil society is being increasingly muzzled while organisations aligned with the “Hindutva movement” have gained freedom.
  • This report comes within a week of US watchdog Freedom House downgrading India’s status to “partly free” in its ‘Freedom in the World’ report.
  • In March last year, Reports Without Borders (RSF)placed India alongside China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia in a list of press freedom’s “worst digital predators”.
  • The US government’s Religious Freedom Monitor recommended that the country’s state department should include India in the list of “countries of special concern”. Again in April, India was ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s Press Freedom Index, sliding two ranks down.
  • The country also fell 26 places to rank 105th among 162 countries and territories on a global economic freedom index released by the Fraser Institute in Canada in September 2020.
  • Finally in December 2020, India was ranked 111th out of 162 countries in the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index 2020.
  • India’s slide in these reports only mirrors its decline in indices compiled by independent bodies which monitor democratic freedoms over the past few years.