The state of freedom around the world declined for the eighth year in a row in 2013, according to Freedom House’s annual global report on political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2014.
The report, which was released Thursday, took a tone unlike those of years before, opening with a mention of the death of Nelson Mandela—“a true giant of the freedom struggle.”
The significance of the 2013 event, the introduction said, was manifest not exactly in the praise bestowed upon Mandela at his memorial service, but in the troubled state of freedom that the glance back at his life revealed.
“For it was apparent to many that the defining convictions of Mandela’s career—commitment to the rule of law and democratic choice, rejection of score settling and vengeance seeking, recognition that regarding politics as a zero-sum game was an invitation to authoritarianism and civil strife—are in decidedly short supply among today’s roster of political leaders.”
Indeed, a total of 54 countries restricted political freedoms or civil liberties, with only 40 countries taking strides toward improving the rights of their populations. The appearances of certain countries listed as in decline should not come as a surprise to those who followed the news in 2013 and bore witness to the year’s coups and civil wars, although the report also served to expose some stories and countries that were truly underreported.