The arrest and detention of hundreds of opposition supporters as well as treason charges against the national human rights watchdog in 2015 has resulted in a decline in Maldives’ freedom ratings.
Freedom House, a US-based organisation that evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries in its annual Freedom in the World report, said civil liberties are on the decline in the Maldives.
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, which is under fire over the jailing of opposition leaders and failure to investigate threats against journalists and politicians, is listed as “partly- free.”
It is also among three countries that lost its designation as an electoral democracy this year.
Freedom House characterises electoral democracies as countries that ensure space for competitive multiparty political systems, universal suffrage, regularly contested elections, and political party access to the electorate through open political campaigning.
The opposition has accused Yameen of eliminating political rivals by jailing key opposition figures, including former President Mohamed Nasheed, on trumped up charges.
Some 200 protesters were arrested during a protest on May Day alone. The government has since banned all street protests.
The Freedom in the World ranking awards a numerical score for political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of one representing the most free conditions and 7 the least free. These scores determine whether it has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.
Maldives has a score of four on political rights and a five on civil liberties.
Failure to implement gender-equality protections and renewed enforcement of laws against same-sex sexual activity also contributed to the decline in civil liberties, the organisation said.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Maldives.
Freedom House meanwhile states there has been a decline in global freedom for a tenth year.
“The world in 2015 was battered by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crackdown harder on dissent.
“These unsettling developments contributed to the tenth consecutive year of decline in global freedom.”
In South Asia, Sri Lanka, which saw a change of government, was designated an electoral democracy. India, the world’s largest democracy was listed as “Free,” but its press freedom was listed as “partly-free.”
Freedom was also listed as in decline in Bangladesh because “of high-profile murders by Islamist militants, increasing restrictions on critical journalists, and censorship of media content.”
The report was released on January 27.
Photo by Shaari