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Democracy in CEE is under threat from illiberal populists, Freedom House

Democracy and pluralism are under assault around the world, with authoritarianism and illiberal populism remaining key challenges to overcome in Europe and Eurasia, the Freedom in the World 2020 report of U.S.-based international NGO Freedom House has found.

In emerging Europe, a number of countries are under threat from illiberal populist leaders and political parties, the report claims, saying Hungary, Serbia, and Ukraine have seen the sharpest drops in freedom since 2010.

In Hungary, after taking power in 2010 elections, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party pushed through constitutional and legal changes that have allowed it to consolidate control over the country’s independent institutions.

“More recently, the Fidesz-led government has moved to institute policies that hamper the operations of opposition groups, journalists, universities, and non-governmental organizations whose perspectives it finds unfavorable,” Freedom House notes in the Hungary section of the report.

“In Montenegro and Serbia, independent journalists, opposition figures, and other perceived foes of the government faced ongoing harassment, intimidation, and sometimes violence,” the report claimed.

While the report acknowledges Ukraine has enacted a number of positive reforms since the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, it also states that attacks on journalists, civil society activists, and minorities are still frequent, while the police response is inadequate.

In Poland, the report claims that legislative elections laid bare the extent to which the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had politically captured the state media, whose taxpayer-funded broadcasts leading up to the voting amounted to partisan propaganda.

Freedom House again named Estonia and Slovenia the freest countries in emerging Europe. Behind them, the Czech Republic scored 91 points. Lithuania came in third with 89 points, two points higher than in 2018.

The list of nations deemed free by the international NGO also includes Slovakia (88 of 100 points), Croatia (85/100), Poland (84/100), Romania (83/100) and Bulgaria (80/100).

Currently, Hungary has 70 (out of 100) points on the freedom index, Serbia has 66, and Ukraine has 62. They are followed by Georgia (61/100), Moldova (60/100), Kosovo (56/100), Armenia (53/100), as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina (53/100).

The annual report measures civil liberties and political rights in 195 countries and 15 territories. Scoring a maximum 100 points, Finland, Norway and Sweden top global ranking of global freedom, followed by Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland and Australia.