Bangladesh's democracy is in decline because the country has continuously fared poorly in assessments of political rights and civil liberties.
Bangladesh has consistently been named a "Partly Free" country on the Freedom in the World report since 1973, when the first report was released. However, in the report of 1992 and 1993, the country was categorised as "Free".
The "Freedom in the World 2020: A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy" report, released on Wednesday, exposed that only 43 percent of countries were rated as Free, after assessing 195 countries and 15 territories by 150 analysts and advisors.
The report has been published annually since 1973 by the US-based nonprofit and nonpartisan organization Freedom House, which aims to support democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. The study based on total points, determines whether the country or territory has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.
The report evaluated the state of freedom in Bangladesh during the calendar year 2019 where it ranked 141 out of 210 countries and territories. Bangladesh got a score of 39 out of 100, and was mentioned as Partly Free.
The score was divided into two categories in the 2020 edition ─ Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Bangladesh achieved 15 out of 40 in Political Rights, and 24 out of 60 in Civil Liberties.
The Political Rights category has three subcategories and ten indicators, while Civil Liberties has four subcategories and fifteen indicators.
Each indicator carries a score from 0 to 4; 0 means not free and 4 means free.
Freedom in established democracies are in decline
The report says democracy is under threat around the globe. Many protest movements in democratic countries have led to decline in freedom for 14 consecutive years. During this period, 25 countries out 41 established democracies faced a net loss in freedom.
The current edition of the report states that only 43 percent of countries and territories are rated Free, 32 percent are Partly Free and 25 percent Not Free. The number of Free countries has declined 3 percentage points over a decade.
On the other hand, Partly Free has increased by 2 percentage points and Not Free has increased by 1 percentage point.
Finland, Norway and Sweden are the freest countries in the world securing top scores, says the report.
Syria has languished as the world's least free country with a score of zero. The position has been held by the country for the past seven consecutive years.
India drops the most
India, the world's largest democracy, dropped around 4 points from its position in the previous year, which is the highest drop among the world's 25 most populous democracies in this year's report. India now has 71 points, down from 75 in the previous edition.
Once, India used to be considered as a potential democratic counterweight to the socialist republic country China in the Indo-Pacific region. However, the current government's alarming departures from democratic norms are blurring the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi.
India still remains a Free rating country as it organised a successful election last spring. Sadly, the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi and his party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has distanced itself from the country's founding commitment of pluralism and individual rights, without which democracy cannot survive for long.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, which allows special protection to only non-Muslims from neighboring countries has led rioting within the country. Millions of people in Assam have become stateless. Several internet shutdowns have taken place.
Jammu and Kashmir are still facing an internet shutdown which started from August 4, 2019. The state's autonomous status was revoked by the Indian government last year. Indian Kashmir, assessed separately in Freedom in the World, experienced 21 points decline, one of the five largest single-year declines of the past decade anywhere in the world. The territory's freedom status also dropped from Partly Free to Not Free.
The president of Freedom House, Mike Abramowitz said, "India and the United States are the largest and perhaps the most influential democracies in the world, and their drift from liberal democratic ideals is sending exactly the wrong message."
Freedom in South Asia
Bangladesh dropped from 4th to 5th position in South Asia. The other two countries behind Bangladesh are Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India still remains the only Free country and tops in South Asia, followed by Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Maldives makes a huge jump in the South Asian league table with a score of 35. Maldives was bottom second in the previous year, but with 5 points addition, it overtakes Bangladesh and ranks 4th in South Asia at present.
Afghanistan is the only country rated as a Not Free nation.