Latest Updates

  • On Iran

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      16 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      15 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 18, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      73.26%
    • Population

      84.2 million
    New Report
    Iran recorded a score decline in the new edition of Freedom in the World due to the government’s restriction of information on a...
    Perspective
    Authorities have responded to the threat of boycotts and protests by suppressing dissent on social media, underscoring the country...
  • On Russia

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      20 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      30 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      September 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      80.25%
    • Population

      146.7 million
    In the news
    Key digital trends ahead of Russia's election include internet sovereignty, digital election interference, and tensions with...
  • On Vietnam

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      19 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      22 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      May 23, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      66.54%
    • Population

      96.2 million
    New Report
    Vietnam’s one-point overall score decline in Freedom in the World 2021 report reflected new lows for the country’s media...
    In the news
    New analysis in The Diplomat discusses how Vietnam's ruling party is flagrantly abusing human rights online and increasingly...
  • On Ethiopia

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      22 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      29 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 5, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      17.87%
    • Population

      114.9 million
    New Report
    Ethiopia’s overall score declined in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting mass arrests of high-profile politicians...
    Incident Alert
    Ethiopian authorities announced that the June 5 election would be postponed by approximately two to three weeks, citing logistical...
  • On Vietnam

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      19 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      22 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      May 23, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      66.54%
    • Population

      96.2 million
    New Report
    Vietnam’s one-point overall score decline in Freedom in the World 2021 report reflected new lows for the country’s media...
    In the news
    New analysis in The Diplomat discusses how Vietnam's ruling party is flagrantly abusing human rights online and increasingly...
  • On Albania

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      April 25, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      70.35%
    • Population

      2.8 million
    New Report
    Albania’s overall score fell in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting a charged political atmosphere that gave rise...
  • Albania

    header1 Country Overview

    Albania will hold its April parliamentary elections under a newly amended electoral code. Passed in October 2020, the changes include a reduced vote threshold for parties to enter parliament, a restructuring of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), and alterations to the way coalitions put forth candidates. The United States, European Union, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) initially supported for electoral reforms but criticized the ultimate outcome and the exclusion of the opposition from the process. A joint opinion from the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR described the procedure as “extremely hasty” and “against the most basic rules of democratic law-making.” The opinion also called for further reforms after the April parliamentary election.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Albania has a record of generally competitive elections, despite criticism of the CEC for its lack of transparency and concerns about vote-buying and corruption. The PS and the Democratic Party (PD), the main opposition party, dominate the political landscape, while numerous smaller parties have little opportunity to gain power. April’s parliamentary elections are under additional scrutiny following the PD’s boycott of the 2019 local elections and 2017 parliamentary elections. The media environment is highly concentrated, and owners use outlets to push narratives supporting their political and financial interests. Intimidation, including pressure from the government, leads many journalists to self-censor, and efforts to pass harsh anti-defamation legislation in 2019 and 2020 reinforced concerns about government hostility towards independent media.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Numerous laws allow users to be punished for online speech, including criminal penalties for defamation, which is frequently used against journalists and media outlets. Authorities have made multiple arrests in recent years for “knowingly [distributing] false information with the intention of spreading panic.” In 2019, Xhuliana Aliaj was detained for three days for Facebook posts asking the government assess damage caused by an earthquake and urging people to leave the area for their safety. The case against her was dropped after 11 months. In 2020, an online media company, Nova Media, was reportedly referred for prosecution for causing panic related to the pandemic. This pattern of legal interventions sets a worrying precedent for how the Albanian government can limit politically sensitive speech, particularly as the government’s pressure on media has ramped up more generally.
    • Blocking of websites: The Albanian government has shown greater willingness to block online content. In April 2020, the Audiovisual Media Authority required ISPs to block several websites, including the entire Medium.com domain. The Medium block was reportedly in response to a copyright complaint and was reversed after less than a week, but the decision to block the entire site, rather than only the relevant content, raises concerns about the proportionality of restrictions imposed by the government. After the 2019 earthquake, the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) blocked an online news outlet’s website and the Facebook page of another. In addition, the proposed anti-defamation package included a legal mechanism for blocking websites.
    • Cyberattacks: Online media and the Albanian government have occasionally fallen victim to cyberattacks in recent years. A malware infection in April 2020 rendered Exit, a news site, inaccessible to users and administrators for 24 hours while a malware infection attempted to delete content. Though the website was restored and no content was lost, the incident represented a worrying escalation against an independent media outlet that has faced threats and legal harassment in the past. Also in 2020, an attack on Albanian intelligence, believed to be perpetrated by Turkish authorities, compromised the personal information of hundreds of people. Similar breaches ahead of Albania’s election could negatively impact the election environment, including by obstructing access to information or interfering with elections infrastructure or personal data, and even unsuccessful attacks could fuel doubts about electoral integrity.

    Albania has a score of 68 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a generally strong environment for political rights despite challenges to rule of law and free expression. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 67 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 47 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Albania country reports in Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Albania’s overall score fell in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting a charged political atmosphere that gave rise to several violent confrontations between police and protestors. Read the Albania report.

    On Albania

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      66 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      April 25, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      70.35%
    • Population

      2.8 million
  • Argentina

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Argentina

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    • Global Freedom Score

      84 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      71 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 24, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      77.43%
    • Population

      45.4 million
  • Bulgaria

    header1 Country Overview

    Bulgaria will hold parliamentary elections in April against a backdrop of democratic deterioration and antigovernment protests. The vote is seen as a test of the ruling coalition, which is composed of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and its junior partner, the nationalist United Patriots alliance. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the main opposition, holds the second-most seats in parliament, followed by the centrist Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS).

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Anticorruption protests began in the summer of 2020 and continued into the winter, with demands ranging from judicial reform to snap elections and the resignation of the government, including Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev. In October, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Bulgaria’s “significant deterioration in respect for the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, including the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, the fight against corruption and freedom of the media.” Legal changes in 2019 allowed unlimited private financing for political parties, opening the door for increased oligarchic influence and vote buying. In September 2020, the electoral code was amended to allow polling places to use a combination of electronic and paper ballots, instead of switching to electronic voting as planned. The use of mixed voting mechanisms could compound a lack of trust among voters.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: Multiple factors may negatively impact the online information environment ahead of the elections. Concentrated media ownership, which extends to online outlets, allows the government and oligarchs to exert extensive influence over reporting. Political parties have been linked to social media influence operations in the past, leading several parties to sign an agreement in 2015 against the use of these campaigning tactics. Nonetheless, recent research has documented separate domestic and Russia-based influence operations to bolster attitudes on Russia or spread divisive and misleading content about Bulgarian politics. These combined media factors may disrupt voters’ ability to engage with reliable information ahead of the election. 
    • Cyberattacks: Government agencies have been targeted by cyberattacks in recent years, including a 2019 breach of the National Revenue Agency, and DDoS attacks on the Central Election Commission (CEC) in 2015 and 2013. Following these attacks, the CEC identified DDoS attacks as a main technical risk during elections, along with personal data leaks and other compromising cyberattacks. In January 2021, a platform for a volunteer ballot monitoring initiative was hacked, and the personal data of thousands of Bulgarians was uploaded to the initiative’s online recruitment platform. 

     

    Bulgaria has a score of 76 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of credible elections, despite concerns about state capture and declining media freedom. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 80 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and as a semi-consolidated democracy in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 59 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Bulgaria country reports in Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Bulgaria

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      78 100 free
    • Date of Election

      April 4, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      66.03%
    • Population

      6.9 million
  • Burkina Faso

    header1 Country Overview

    Burkinabè will vote in November in the second presidential and legislative elections since Blaise Campaoré’s 27-year regime was overthrown in 2014. Over 20 candidates filed for the first round of the 2020 presidential contest, including numerous prominent figures such as incumbent president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, whose People’s Movement for Progress (MPP) party holds a plurality in parliament; Zephirin Diabré of the opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC) party; and former prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, who now lives in Canada and could face charges for desertion should he return to Burkina Faso.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The election takes place amid a deterioration in security that, as of August 2020, has forced over a million Burkinabè to flee their homes. Insecurity —driven in large part by militant groups operating in the north and east of the country—is a major challenge to the electoral environment, making it unsafe to campaign and limiting access to polls in some areas. The government has responded to the security situation by criminalizing speech that “demoralizes” the security forces. A new law allows the Constitutional Court to certify election results based on incomplete returns in cases of “force majeure or exceptional circumstances,” potentially disenfranchising thousands of people residing in northern rural areas where voting is likely to be disrupted due to violence. These regions are also home to large populations of ethnic and religious groups that have been historically underrepresented in politics and government.

    Burkina Faso has a score of 65 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Burkina Faso’s score reflects generally credible and competitive recent elections and a relatively robust environment for media and civil society, despite significant security challenges that threaten the democratic gains made in recent years. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 56 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about this annual Freedom House assessment, please visit the Burkina Faso country report for Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Individuals are sometimes arrested for their online activity, including in relation to a 2019 revision of the penal code that criminalized the dissemination of information related to terrorist attacks and speech that “demoralizes the defense and security forces.” Given the close ties between security and elections issues, the use of this law could hinder election-related media coverage and online discussion.
    • Blocking websites: The recently amended penal code permits the blocking of websites or email addresses that disseminate alleged false information. The provision is subject to judicial oversight, but any legal avenue for blocking is cause for concern and the Burkinabè judiciary sometimes suffers from political interference.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Burkina Faso

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      54 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 22, 2020
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      17.50%
    • Population

      20.3 million
  • Chad

    header1 Country Overview

    President Idriss Déby Itno is running for a sixth term in office in a tightly controlled political environment. His Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) and allied parties control the National Assembly; members of the body have not faced an election since 2011 due to repeated postponements. Though opposition parties are legally permitted, their leaders face legal and physical harassment for their political organizing. Over a dozen candidates will contest the election, including opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo and Theophile Bebzoune Bongoro, who has the backing of Alliance Victoire, a new coalition comprising 15 opposition parties.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Constitutional reforms passed in December included the creation of a vice president position appointed directly by the president, as well as formation of a second legislative chamber elected by provincial and municipal councilors. The opposition was largely excluded from the reform process, and the changes are widely viewed as a further entrenchment of power by the Déby and his allies. In February 2021, authorities placed a ban on public demonstrations and arrested numerous activists and opposition members who defied the measure in the following days. The government tightly controls the media environment, and members of the media self-censor to avoid reprisals. Access to information is further limited by low internet penetration and high illiteracy rates. Despite these obstacles, the internet remains an important avenue for access to information, making it a target for government interference.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Blocking websites and social media: The Chadian government has a history of restricting access to online content surrounding politically consequential events. Beginning on July 22, 2020, authorities blocked WhatsApp for at least two months in an apparent attempt to prevent the circulation of images and videos of extrajudicial violence between a member of the Chadian military and civilians at an N’Djamena market. A 15-month social media blackout began in March 2018, affecting WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms. While authorities justified the blocking on security concerns, its implementation coincided with tensions surrounding constitutional reforms that allow Déby to serve additional terms as president. The 2016 presidential election also saw largescale blocking of social media, messaging apps, and several websites.
    • Internet shutdowns: The 2021 presidential election brings an increased risk of connectivity restrictions. The internet was inaccessible for eight months following the 2016 presidential elections and has been disrupted several times since then. More recently, the internet was throttled or inaccessible in many parts of the country from July 22 through August 18, 2020, coinciding with the blocking of WhatsApp. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions: Individuals are often punished for critical online commentary about the government. In January, a journalist was fined and sentenced to prison on defamation charges after criticizing a local judicial system in a Facebook post. In addition to defamation, Chadian laws criminalize the publishing of “outrages” against government institutions or their members; disseminating information in violation of national security interests; and praising or provoking terrorist acts, with especially harsh punishment reserved for internet-related offenses. The vague nature of these laws makes them particularly vulnerable to abuse, including politicized application to critics, members of the media, and opposition figures. For example, in February the head of the Chadian Organization for Human Rights received a three-year prison sentence and a fine for “violation of the constitutional order” in relation to a Facebook post about Déby’s allegedly ill health.

    Chad has a score of 30 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a restricted digital sphere, an uncompetitive electoral environment, and the regular violation of a range of human rights. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 17 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Chad country report in Freedom in the World.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Chad’s overall score did not change in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, but legislative elections were delayed for the fifth time, the government adopted new constitutional reforms, and the country continued to face multiple insurgencies. Read the Chad report.

    On Chad

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      17 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      April 11, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      10.25%
    • Population

      16.9 million
  • Côte d'Ivoire

    header1 Country Overview

    President Alassane Ouattara has backtracked on an earlier promise to step down after completing two terms. The reversal came after Ouattara’s preferred successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died suddenly in July. Opponents have criticized the move as unconstitutional, whereas Outtara and his Rally of the Republicans party have argued that the adoption of a new constitution in 2016 reset his terms in office. The move has sparked political unrest: at least a dozen people have died and over one hundred were injured during clashes, while dozens have been arrested.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Recent political fractures make for a competitive and contentious election. Presidential candidate (and former president) Henri Konan Bédié, who belongs to the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, split with Ouatarra in 2018. Outtara first won the presidency in 2010, but then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede, plunging the country into a crisis that left more than 3,000 dead. In 2019, the International Criminal Court acquitted Gbagbo of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the post-election conflict. He is now on conditional release and while the verdict is appealed by the prosecutor.

    Meanwhile, Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, a former ally of Ouattara and rebel commander during the Ivorian Civil War, have both been barred from running in October. Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front, nominated former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan as their candidate. In September, Bédié called for civil disobedience ahead of the vote and for Gbagbo and Soro to return to Côte d’Ivoire. Civil disobedience and protests may result in violence, given security forces’ frequent use of force against protesters and the especially tense political environment.

    Côte d’Ivoire has a score of 54 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on selection of key election-related indicators. Côte d’Ivoire’s score reflects relatively weak rule of law and strained political and electoral conditions. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 51 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about Freedom House’s annual assessment, please visit the Côte d’Ivoire country report in Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Hate speech and violence: The heightened political tensions create a high-risk environment for hate speech and incitement to violence. Given the ongoing intercommunal and ethnic conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the history of electoral violence in 2010-11, the potential for election-related incitement along ethnic lines should be closely watched.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: The June 2019 criminal code includes a provision criminalizing false news “that results or could result in disturbance to public order” or “causing offense to the president or vice-president.” The vague nature of the provision and personalized exception to free expression make this law ripe for abuse and politicized application, particularly during a tense electoral period.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Côte d'Ivoire

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      44 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      October 31, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      44.89%
    • Population

      25.5 million
  • Ecuador

    header1 Country Overview

    February’s legislative and presidential elections are widely seen as a determining moment for the trajectory of Ecuadorian democracy. President Lenín Moreno faces a dismal approval rating and will not run for a second term. The political field is highly fractured; no less than 17 candidates are vying for the presidency and a coalition of several parties will be necessary for control of the National Assembly. Legal disputes, economic mismanagement, and policy failures around the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded to create a highly contentious climate ahead of the vote.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The previous president, Raphael Correa, remains a highly influential figure in the political scene, despite his self-exile in Belgium and a tenure marked by attacks on civil society and the media. Correa is prohibited from running for president by a 2018 referendum that reinstated term limits only four years after the pro-Correa legislature voted to remove them. In April, a court sentenced him in absentia to eight years in prison and a ban on engaging in politics for 25 years over bribery and corruption, throwing his vice presidential bid into doubt. The legislative contest is also mired in legal uncertainty. The National Electoral Council suspended the registration of four political parties in July, including Correa’s Social Commitment Movement, only for the decision to be overturned by the Election Dispute Tribunal in August.

    Ecuador has a score of 61 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects limitations on free expression online and offline, but a relatively strong environment for elections and activities of political parties. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 65 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 57 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Ecuador country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: False and misleading content is likely to proliferate ahead of the election, given a history of influence operations by the country’s current and former political leaders. Correa and his allies reportedly used messaging groups to coordinate the dissemination of false and doctored content about the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the use of paid progovernment commentators is reduced under the Moreno administration, Twitter removed a network of inauthentic accounts linked to the ruling party in 2019.
    • Content removal: Copyright law is frequently exploited for political censorship, with the government requesting several news sites be removed by their hosting companies. The government also has a history of seeking content and account removals on social media platforms. Politicized targeting of news outlets could impact voters’ access to information ahead of the election.
    • Harassment and violence: Political tensions will likely exacerbate instances of harassment against media workers and candidates representing marginalized groups ahead of the election. In February 2020, unknown assailants detonated an explosion inside the home of the founder of a political news channel on Facebook. Women candidates and Afro-Ecuadorians are disproportionately subject to harassment online.
    • Cyberattacks: Media outlets and numerous candidates were targeted with cyberattacks during the 2017 campaign period, and media outlets have been hacked in the years since. Digital security remains a potential vulnerability ahead of the 2021 election.

     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    Presidential elections are headed to a runoff on April 11th after economist Andrés Arauz won the first round with too few votes to secure the presidency. Arauz will face either Guillermo Lasso, a conservative banker, or Yaku Pérez, an Indigenous environmental activist; the contest between Lasso and Pérez remains too close to call. Source.

    On Ecuador

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    • Global Freedom Score

      67 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      57 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 7, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      68.14%
    • Population

      17.3 million
  • El Salvador

    header1 Country Overview

    The February legislative elections have major implications for President Nayib Bukele’s authority for the remainder of his term, which so far has been marked by hostility towards democratic institutions. The vote, which takes place alongside local elections, will test the viability of newer and smaller parties and coalitions. Bukele, of the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party, was elected in 2019, defeating the long-dominant Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) parties. His election marked the first time a third-party candidate won the presidency since the end of the civil war in 1992. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    El Salvador has a history of generally free and credible elections, and the media environment remains vibrant in the face of interference by the government and violence against journalists who report on sensitive issues, such as corruption and gang activity. In February 2020, Bukele deployed troops to the El Salvadorian parliament in a bid to coerce lawmakers to pass a funding bill that was part of his anti-crime agenda, and throughout the year his administration defied numerous court orders. Administration officials and members of law enforcement have intimidated independent journalists, prevented them from attending press conferences, and limited their access to protests and other political events. Bukele has repeatedly harassed independent media for their investigative reporting on government activities and has made unsubstantiated claims that specific reporters and outlets are under investigation for money laundering.

    El Salvador has a score of 73 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a strong track record of election credibility and political participation despite corruption, challenges to media freedom, and widespread activity of criminal groups. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 66 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the El Salvador country report in Freedom in the World.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: Domestic political actors have regularly manipulated online discourse and may do so ahead of the February election. A July 2020 report from the International Crisis Group identified coordinated domestic influence operations on Twitter, in favor of and in opposition to Bukele. Earlier in the year, the government alleged that the FMLN was running an influence campaign. During his candidacy in 2018, Bukele was linked to an effort to imitate the websites of media outlets while publishing misleading information. 
    • Harassment and violence for online activity: Journalists consistently face harassment on social media for criticizing Bukele, including frequent threats of sexual violence against women journalists. Through his Twitter account, Bukele has disparaged journalists and accused them of propagating “fake news.” Escalating political discourse ahead of election day could encourage a parallel rise in harassment. Given the history of offline intimidation and violence against reporters in El Salvador, it is possible that digital harassment for online activity could escalate into physical attacks.
    • Cyberattacks: Media outlets and civil society organizations are potential targets for cyberattacks during the electoral period. Independent outlet Revista Factum, whose journalists faced escalating harassment online and were banned from attending one of Bukele’s press conferences in September 2019, was targeted by a cyberattack in October 2019 that left their website inaccessible for a week. The Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders reported attempts to hack their Twitter account in September 2020.

     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    In the wake of the killing of two FMLN supporters, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has called on the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States to deploy international election observers earlier than planned. Observers are scheduled to arrive one week before the election day, but the TSE’s February 2 statement urges advanced deployment “in order to monitor, prevent, and denounce any act of political violence.” Source.

    Incident Alert

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement on February 4 calling on El Salvador’s government to protect 34 journalists at the investigative online news outlet El Faro. Since Bukele took office, journalists for the platform have reported receiving threats from government institutions, facing anonymous smear campaigns, and being blocked from accessing government events. Source.

    On El Salvador

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      63 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      February 28, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      46.41%
    • Population

      6.5 million
  • Ethiopia

    header1 Country Overview

    The parliamentary elections planned for June are understood as a test of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s stated commitment to democratization. It is the first election since Abiy, a former military officer, was appointed to replace Hailemariam Desalegn, who led an openly authoritarian state until he resigned in 2018 amid mass protests. The previous parliamentary elections, held in 2015, took place in a tightly controlled environment that featured voter intimidation and barriers to registration. All 547 seats in the parliament’s lower house were won by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of parties dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and its allies. In December 2019, rising tensions with the TPLF led to the dissolution of the EPRDF. Most coalition members came together to form the Prosperity Party, which is headed by Abiy; the TPLF refused to join. The federal government revoked the TPLF’s registration in January 2021, after Abiy accused the party of initiating the conflict between the central government and the Tigrayan forces. Over 45 parties are expected to campaign in the June elections; though all 547 seats were set to be contested, voting in some constituencies may not take place because of the Tigray conflict and other threats to security. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Several crises related to Ethiopia’s ethnicity-based federal structure threaten the stability of the elections, and potentially their credibility. The elections were originally set for August 2020 but postponed by the election board due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict since it began in November 2020, though reports of the number of casualties are contested. Human rights groups allege that all sides perpetrated war crimes. Meanwhile, the federal government has imposed a counter-insurgency zone in western Oromia and some parts of southern Oromia, and imprisoned prominent Oromo politicians. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day: 

    • Internet shutdowns: The Ethiopian government frequently restricts the internet to accomplish its political aims or in response to unrest. Since January 2020, authorities have imposed connectivity restrictions in the Oromia counter-insurgency zone, nationwide amid mass protests over the death of an Oromo activist and singer, and in Tigray during the conflict. Demonstrations during or after the campaigning period or an escalation of the security situation could prompt the Abiy government to turn to connectivity restrictions.  
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activities: Abiy presided over a relative opening of online free expression in Ethiopia early in his term, but that progress is increasingly at risk. During the Tigray crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, online journalists affiliated with the TPLF were arrested and charged in relation to reports made on social media. Several laws criminalize online speech, including an overly restrictive hate speech and disinformation law passed in February 2020. Journalists and online commentators alike risk arrest for their social media activities during the electoral period, particularly those aligned with Tigrayan and Oromo political movements.   
    • Influence operations: A degraded information space may make the online environment more vulnerable to coordinated manipulation aimed to sway online discourse during the elections. Online misinformation is rife, exacerbated by the Tigray conflict. Both pro- and antigovernment internet users share false or misleading content and accuse others of spreading disinformation. The TPLF reportedly coordinates party loyalists to shape the social media environment, while previous governments were known to employ online commentators. Disinformation campaigns ahead of the election may also impede voters’ access to reliable information. 
    • Blocking of platforms and websites: The government maintains the technical capability to block social media platforms and websites, and has done so during periods of unrest. After Amhara regional officials were assassinated in June 2019, Ethiopian authorities imposed an internet shutdown and later blocked social media platforms. Protests or instability during the electoral period could prompt similar restrictions. 

    Ethiopia has a score of 30 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of elections marred by undemocratic practices and internet restrictions. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 24 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 29 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Ethiopia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Ethiopia’s overall score declined in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, reflecting mass arrests of high-profile politicians and increased violence between ethnic groups that has caused mass displacement. Read the Ethiopia report.

    Incident Alert

    Ethiopian authorities announced that the June 5 election would be postponed by approximately two to three weeks, citing logistical needs. Source.

    On Ethiopia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      22 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      29 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 5, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      17.87%
    • Population

      114.9 million
  • Georgia

    header1 Country Overview

    Georgia’s October election is expected to be highly competitive, despite recent democratic backsliding. It is the first election under a new, mixed proportional-majoritarian system, which is intended to reduce polarization and level the playing field for opposition parties. United National Movement (UNM), the former ruling party, is widely seen as the most serious challenger to the ruling Georgian Dream party.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Informal power plays a significant role in the Georgian political landscape as demonstrated by the influence of oligarchs, former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s continued leadership of Georgian Dream, and former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s control of the UNM. The impact of informal power is clearly seen in the media, which is highly partisan. The October vote is likely to feature many of the challenges reported in previous elections, including the misuse of administrative resources and various forms of vote buying and intimidation.

    Georgia has a score of 68 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Georgia’s score reflects relatively well-administered elections; politicized institutions, including the media and judiciary; and inconsistent respect for the right to protest. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 61 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, with an internet freedom score of 75 out of 100; and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 38 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Georgia country reports for Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: There is substantial evidence that the government and other domestic and foreign political actors have carried out online influence campaigns, particularly during politically sensitive moments. Ruling and opposition parties were involved in online influence campaigns during the 2018 presidential election. More recently, in April 2020, Facebook removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts, groups, and pages affiliated with the Georgian Dream and UNM. Several influence operations have been tied to the Russian government and pro-Russian actors. Influence campaigns are highly likely during the 2020 election, but the potentially broad range of sources makes their impact difficult to predict.
    • Cyberattacks: The Georgian government, private websites, the media, and financial institutions have been targeted by numerous high-profile cyberattacks from domestic and foreign sources in recent years. An attack in October 2019 that affected over 2,000 government and private websites was subsequently linked to Russia’s GRU. Despite the Georgian government’s efforts to combat hacking and other cybersecurity threats, digital security remains a potential flashpoint in the pre-election period.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Georgia’s net score did not change in the new edition of Freedom on the Net, but the report documented increases in the number of cyberattacks and in domestic content manipulation. Read the Georgia report.

    On Georgia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      60 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      76 100 free
    • Date of Election

      October 31, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      63.81%
    • Population

      4.0 million
  • Germany

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Germany

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    • Global Freedom Score

      94 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      80 100 free
    • Date of Election

      September 26, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      89.31%
    • Population

      83.3 million
  • Hong Kong

    header1 Country Overview

    December’s Legislative Council (Legco) elections will be the first since prodemocracy candidates overwhelmingly won district council elections during antigovernment protests in 2019, dealing a blow to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing responded to the challenge to its rule by imposing a restrictive National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020 and major changes to the electoral system in March 2021. As a special administrative region within China, Hong Kong is led by a chief executive selected by a small committee of politically loyal elites, and a legislative body where a minority of members are chosen through direct elections. Under the new system, only 20 out of the 90 seats will be directly elected (compared with 35 of 70 previously), corporations and professional groups will elect 30 members, and the unelected Election Committee will send 40 of its members. All candidates must undergo a screening process conducted by Hong Kong national security police and a government-appointed body. These changes are intended to ensure the pro-Beijing camp consolidates control and make it likely that the opposition camp (comprised of prodemocracy and localist parties) will be eliminated during the screening process. The election was initially scheduled for September 2020 but postponed purportedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though pandemic-related deaths were relatively low.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The upcoming Legco election could be a catalyst for further restrictions on internet freedom and human rights in Hong Kong, as people may protest Beijing’s increased control over the territory in the run-up and aftermath of the polls. Hong Kong’s previously vibrant media and civil society face increasing restrictions after the passage of the NSL and a ban on demonstrations ostensibly due to public health. Several civil society organizations have been disbanded or face national security investigations under the NSL, and authorities charged 47 people with “conspiracy to commit subversion” for taking part in a primary election for prodemocracy candidates in July 2020. Authorities have jailed many prodemocracy activists, former Legco members, or district councilors and others fled into exile, significantly reducing the potential pool of candidates. Credible information about candidates, the elections, and the broader political environment may not be available, and self-censorship may impact debates, opinion polling, and electoral coverage.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Cyberattacks: There have been numerous cyberattacks linked to the Chinese state, originating in China, or from unidentified actors on websites and platforms used by protesters and civil society in Hong Kong. Telegram and LIHKG.com, used by protesters to organize and communicate online, suffered massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during the 2019 protests. The Amnesty International Hong Kong office, local universities, and Android and iOS users in Hong Kong were targeted by malware. Candidates, prodemocracy supporters, journalists, digital media sites, and civil society organizations face further cyberattacks to disrupt campaigning, information sharing about the elections, and the organization of protests. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions for online activity: The 2019 prodemocracy protests sparked an expansion of prosecution for online activity, a pattern that is likely to carry into the electoral period. Authorities prosecuted individuals using a range of provisions, including “conspiracy to commit a seditious act” and “conspiracy to incite others to commit arson.” Use of the NSL ahead of the election is particularly concerning, as it includes charges that could potentially impose life sentences for online activities. Several prodemocracy activists have already been arrested under the NSL on charges ranging from subversion and secession to “colluding with foreign forces” for pro-independence statements or calls for international sanctions against Hong Kong officials on Facebook and Twitter. A new electoral law passed in May 2021 criminalized inciting someone to spoil or leave blank their ballot; analysts worry the law could be used to target online organizing. Candidates, their supporters, and the general public discussing the elections or civil disobedience strategies related to the polls face a high risk of arrest for online activity. In May, the government announced plans for new bills on doxing and “fake news,” which may lead to further arrests for online activity.
    • Blocking websites: In January 2021, Hong Kong authorities blocked access to a website for the first time, justifying the move under the NSL. Since then, four more websites, all with Taiwan-based IP addresses, have been blocked, though two sites became accessible after three days. Some had clear links to the protest movement, such as the site of a Taiwanese church that raised donations for Hong Kong protesters, but the others were websites of Taiwan’s ruling party, a military recruitment platform, and the transitional justice commission. Websites—including news sites—or social media platforms are at risk of being blocked for hosting content that calls for protests during the electoral period, supports particular candidates, fundraises, or criticizes the electoral process and Hong Kong and Chinese governments.
    • Content removal: In February 2021, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the public broadcaster that has increasingly fallen under government control, removed of all its content older than one year on YouTube and Facebook, a significant erasure of news information produced for the public ahead of the election. In 2019, Apple removed an app from its app store that was used to track police movements during the protests under pressure from the government. Google removed a separate app related to the protests for violating its policy of “capitalizing on sensitive events.” Facebook has removed several popular pages run by prodemocracy and pro-police groups without explanation. The elections may trigger further removal of online media content and increased pressure on tech companies to remove content. 

    Hong Kong has a score of 48 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a controlled electoral system, limitations on political organizing and assembly, and restrictions on free expression, both online and offline. The territory is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 52 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. Please visit the Hong Kong report in Freedom in the World to learn more about this annual assessment and the China Media Bulletin for ongoing monitoring of media and internet freedom in Hong Kong.

    Note: Hong Kong is a territory as opposed to an independent country. Freedom House sometimes assess territories separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons.
     

    Download the preelection assessment PDF in English香港选前评估 Simplified Chinese, or 香港選前評估 Traditional Chinese.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Hong Kong

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    • Global Freedom Score

      52 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      December 19, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      90.92%
    • Population

      7.5 million
  • Iran

    header1 Country Overview

    Iran’s presidential election will take place in a tightly controlled political environment. Political power ultimately lies in the hands of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the undemocratic institutions under his control. The unelected Guardian Council vets all candidates and has the authority to disqualify those that are deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment. Approved candidates will not be announced until a month before the election. Voter turnout dipped to a record low in the February 2020 parliamentary elections, a sign of widespread disillusionment with the electoral system. President Hassan Rouhani will leave office amid a crippling economic crisis, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and continuing civil unrest, all of which may exacerbate voter apathy.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Despite the fact that Rouhani often employed more moderate rhetoric, he fell far short of fulfilling campaign promises to improve Iranians’ personal freedoms. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked, including content about human rights, criticism of the government, and religious expression. Access to major social media platforms remains restricted, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. During repeated mass protests, the government has restricted access to additional platforms and, at times, cut off internet traffic entirely. The state dominates the information landscape through state-run media, strict controls on reporting, and paid progovernment commentators. As a result, Iranians often struggle to access independent sources of information and tools for online campaigning, thus contributing to a restrictive preelection environment. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:  

    • Blocking and filtering websites: There was evidence of election-related blocking and filtering during the 2016 midterm elections; the parliamentary monitoring platform Majlis Monitor was filtered shortly before the election. In the lead up to the 2013 elections, Iranians noticed that online posts or websites that contained certain words, such as candidates' names or slogans, were temporarily blocked or taken offline. Iran’s history of extensive blocking, including around elections, suggests that more sites could be blocked ahead of the vote. Websites and online platforms used for independently monitoring election results or fact-checking candidates could be targeted for censorship.  
    • Influence operations: Iranian authorities have been linked to numerous influence operations in recent years. In October 2020, the US government disrupted a disinformation campaign involving dozens of Iranian-backed websites posing as independent media outlets and targeting countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In 2019, Twitter announced the removal of nearly 5000 accounts linked to the Iranian government for coordinated manipulation targeted at international and domestical audiences. While research on domestic operations remains scant, Iran's extensive foreign campaigns demonstrate the existence of a sophisticated covert influence apparatus that could also be deployed domestically. Iranian authorities regularly manipulate the domestic information environment in other ways, issuing coverage guidelines and pressuring journalists and the media to avoid “government red lines” when covering sensitive topics, including elections.  
    • Internet shutdowns: The state maintains legal and technical control over the internet backbone, facilitating any restrictions on internet connectivity. Authorities disrupted access for one week in response to massive antigovernment protests in November 2019. Shutdowns have continued intermittently; in February 2021, in Sistan and Baluchistan in February 2021, when the government suspended access in Sistan and Baluchistan amid protests. Protests before or after the June election could trigger similar restrictions by the authorities. Any sign or suspicion of public upheaval around the June election could trigger similar shutdowns by the authorities. 

    Iran has a score of 17 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a tightly controlled electoral system and high levels of online censorship and propaganda. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 17 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 15 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Iran country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Iran recorded a score decline in the new edition of Freedom in the World due to the government’s restriction of information on a series of major events. At the same time, hard-line politicians cemented power in the February 2020 parliamentary elections, following the disqualification of many reformist and independent candidates. Read the Iran report.

    Perspective

    Authorities have responded to the threat of boycotts and protests by suppressing dissent on social media, underscoring the country's unfree electoral conditions. New Freedom House analysis looks at the regime's tightening control over online space.

    On Iran

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    • Global Freedom Score

      16 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      15 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      June 18, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      73.26%
    • Population

      84.2 million
  • Iraq

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Iraq

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    • Global Freedom Score

      29 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      October 10, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      68.59%
    • Population

      39.7 million
  • Jordan

    header1 Country Overview

    Jordan’s parliamentary elections will take place following a year of tumultuous anti-government protests, which were tamped down by the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, is appointed by the king, while the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, is up for election.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Candidates typically run as independents and are often tribal figures or businesspeople considered loyal to the monarchy. Despite the dissolution of the Jordanian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood in July, its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), remains the country’s largest opposition party and will participate in the November elections. The IAF won 10 seats in the 2016 election after having boycotted the previous two votes.

    Jordanians regularly self-censor when speaking publicly on sensitive political topics and the monarchy. Organizers of the protest movement have been arrested and prosecuted over the past year. Journalists are sometimes targeted with harassment and assault in response to their reporting, and the government has pressured editors of news websites and online activists to delete articles and social media posts. Jordan’s COVID-19 response may further impact these rights ahead of the election, as emergency provisions have introduced new limits on free expression and movement. Recent attempts to amend the punitive Cybercrime Law to criminalize vaguely defined terms including rumors, false news, and hate speech also demonstrate the government’s continued pressure on free expression.

    Jordan has a score of 40 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Jordan’s score reflects a broadly restrictive environment for free expression, assembly, and political engagement. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 37 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 49 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Jordan country reports for Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Cyberattacks: Multiple politically consequential cyberattacks have occurred in recent years, including the hacking of social media accounts belonging to the deputy head of the teachers’ union in 2019 and the speaker of the House of Representatives in 2018. In July 2019, the official website of the Constitutional Court was compromised by an “international hacker.” This history of politically related cyberattacks suggests similar incidents may be seen during the electoral period.
    • Arrests and prosecutions: There are several laws, including criminal defamation and lèse-majesté, that can be used to punish nonviolent political and social expression ahead of the election, and the government sometimes issues gag orders that restrict reporting on sensitive subjects. Numerous activists and critics have faced charges of insulting the royal family and undermining the regime in the past year for social media posts that criticized Jordanian leadership.
    • Connectivity disruptions: Jordanian authorities may have interfered with internet access in the past. In July, NetBlocks reported that Facebook’s live-streaming service was restricted for a few hours during protests. Facebook Live allegedly experienced disruptions during demonstrations in December 2018 and January 2019 as well. These incidents may signal a willingness on the part of the government to repeat similar restrictions during politically tense moments or demonstrations related to the elections.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net, which found that internet freedom in Jordan improved slightly. Read the Jordan report.

    On Jordan

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    • Global Freedom Score

      34 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      49 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 10, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      76.90%
    • Population

      10.4 million
  • Kyrgyzstan

    header1 Country Overview

    Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming elections are the first national contest since a protracted political crisis, as well as constitutional amendments that effectively changed the country from a parliamentary to presidential system. Two days after the October 2020 parliamentary elections, the Central Election Commission unilaterally annulled the election amid allegations of vote buying, intimidation, and misuse of administrative resources. Opposition parties had failed to pass the threshold necessary to gain seats in the October election; the parties that performed well were linked to then-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Raimbek Matraimov, a former government official and subject of recent, largescale money-laundering case. Mass protests opposing the results continued after the annulment, prompting the resignation of Jeenbekov and the dissolution of the government. The parliament subsequently postponed new elections, instead extending its own mandate in a process that lacked a clear legal basis. Sadyr Japarov, a formerly imprisoned nationalist-populist politician with links to organized crime, briefly assumed the position of prime minister and acting president before being winning the January 2021 presidential election. Japrov’s controversial ascent to the newly empowered presidency may signal a return to strongman rule and a diminished role for the parliament.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The upcoming vote takes place in a climate of heightened volatility and restrictions on civic space. Over 600 people were injured in post-election clashes between the police, Japarov supporters, and the opposition, leading to the brief imposition of martial law in Bishkek. Journalists who covered the elections and ensuing protests were also intimidated, detained, and attacked for their work. Last year, the government proposed problematic reporting requirements for nongovernmental organizations and a law “On Information Manipulation,” which would allow the government to block websites and shut down social media networks for disseminating “false or uncredible information.” Though neither measure was enacted, they set the stage for future efforts to curb expression and civic engagement in the country.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Information manipulation: The persistent manipulation of online news and social media compromises the information space, a key component of a resilient electoral environment. Owners of news sites, some of which are owned by politicians or powerful business interests, sometimes exert editorial pressure to push their own political interests. Individuals are often secretly paid to influence online discussions about politicians and political issues. Networks of fake accounts supporting Jeenbekov, former president Almazbek Atambayev, Matraimov, and Japarov been identified in recent years. After the corruption scandal that embroiled Matraimov, analysts found that approximately 80 percent of social media profiles publicly supporting him were fake. Pro-Japarov commentators were identified during his bid for power in October 2020 and hundreds of fake accounts supporting Jeenbekov were removed from Facebook in December 2020. 
    • Arrests for online activity: Numerous vague laws facilitate the arrest of social media users and online journalists. In 2019, Aftandil Zhorobekov, the administrator of a Facebook group devoted to discussions of arbitrary governance in Kyrgyzstan, was arrested on apparently politically motivated charges related to calling for mass protests and inciting national hatred. The proposed “On Information Manipulation” further demonstrates the political appetite for quelling protected speech online. 
    • Harassment and violence: While average users are not subject to a significant level of harassment or violence for their online activities, some isolated incidents occur, often involving contributors to online media outlets. The violence directed at journalists during the October protests underscores this risk. Investigations into powerful politicians and coverage of protests or election-related controversies ahead of the election could prompt similar offline violence and harassment.
    • Cyberattacks: Politically motivated cyberattacks are a significant problem, and put the safety and work of journalists, critics, and activists at risk. In March 2020, a Telegram group planning a demonstration was compromised and deleted. The previous year, most independent news and fact-checking sites were disabled by DDoS attacks following the publication of the Matraimov investigation. Critical activists and journalists also report attempts to break into their social media accounts.
    • Internet shutdowns: Kyrgyzstani authorities occasionally disrupt internet connectivity during politically sensitive moments. Notably, mobile and broadband internet were throttled as protests broke out following the October election. Connectivity was disrupted locally the previous year when clashes broke out surrounding the arrest of Atambayev. Similar restrictions during election-related demonstrations could restrict access to information and provide the government with cover if it instituted a violent crackdown on protesters.

    Kyrgyzstan has a score of 44 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects problematic elections, significant levels of corruption, and weak rule of law, including a politicized judiciary. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 39 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 56 out of 100; and as a consolidated authoritarian regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 16 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Kyrgyzstan country reports in Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    In the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World, Kyrgyzstan’s status was downgraded from Partly Free to Not Free after fraudulent parliamentary elections trigged a political crisis that enabled a nationalist firebrand to seize the levers of state power. Read the Kyrgyzstan report.

    On Kyrgyzstan

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    • Global Freedom Score

      28 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      56 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      Fall 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      42%
    • Population

      6.6 million
  • Mexico

    header1 Country Overview

    Mexican citizens will take to the polls on June 6 to elect all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, as well as 15 governors and thousands of local positions. The vote is seen as a test of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s popularity and that of his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). It will also determine whether he can retain control of the Chamber after his party secured a majority with the help of its coalition allies in the 2018 elections. The three main opposition parties, the National Action Party (PAN), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), have formed an unlikely and ideologically incongruous alliance known as Go for Mexico (Va por México) in an effort to wrench the majority away from the current left-wing populist government.  

    header2 Preelection assessment

    The 2018 election was seen as a repudiation of the incumbent political establishment and was marred by unprecedented levels of election-related violence, as well as allegations of illegal campaign financing, vote buying, and the misuse of public funds. Paired with budget cuts to the National Electoral Institute (INE) and accusations that Obrador’s government has sought to lessen electoral oversight and roll back government transparency, these issues raise concern about the administration of the upcoming election. The COVID-19 crisis has further complicated the electoral environment, as the country finds itself with the world’s third-highest death toll. Mismanagement of the pandemic response sparked antigovernment protests in the months leading up to the election, which were further fueled by a recent economic recession, record-high homicide rates, and dissatisfaction with Obrador’s public comments on gender-based violence. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and violence: Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western hemisphere for journalists, and reporters for online and offline platforms regularly face threats and sometimes deadly violence in retribution for their work. Those who cover organized criminal groups or sensitive political topics are particularly at risk, including journalists attacked in connection with their reporting on the 2018 election. Obrador’s frequent anti-press rhetoric has also contributed to a threatening environment in which critics often face harassment on social media. Political tensions ahead of the election could exacerbate existing trends of intimidation and violence in response to online speech. 
    • Cyberattacks: Technical attacks, including malware infections and DDoS attacks, have been deployed during recent elections and been used regularly to suppress freedom of expression for journalists and activists. The National Action Party website was targeted with a DDoS attack two weeks ahead of the 2018 election after publishing content that was critical of Obrador. On election day, predictive polling website, Oraculus, was rendered inaccessible to the public due to a cyberattack. Cyberattacks against journalists and activists are regularly paired with the use of spyware software Pegasus, which provides attackers full access to victims’ devices. The targeting of activists, journalists, and political figures could increase self-censorship and lessen critical engagement during the election period, when maintaining accurate reporting and robust civil society is most crucial.   
    • Influence operations: Supporters of President Obrador have historically used automated bot accounts to target critical journalists and everyday users with smear campaigns. Other political parties have also been found to instrumentalize fake accounts and partisan bots in the most recent elections. Bots have been used for political purposes in the country as far back as at least 2010, and may continue to impact online discourse in Mexico’s increasingly digital pre-election context. 

    Mexico has a score of 61 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects extreme violence from organized crime, severe rule of law deficits, government corruption, and a highly dangerous atmosphere for online and offline journalists, all within a relatively robust political and electoral environment. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 62 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 61 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Mexico country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    The new edition of Freedom in the World found that the Mexican government obstructed efforts to address gender-based violence and continued to grapple with entrenched corruption. Read the Mexico report.

    On Mexico

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    • Global Freedom Score

      61 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      61 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      June 6, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      67.14%
    • Population

      127.8 million
  • Moldova

    header1 Country Overview

    Moldovans will vote this November in the country’s second presidential elections since the country switched back to a direct electoral system in 2016. Igor Dodon of the Socialist Party (PSRM) is running for reelection against former prime minister Maia Sandu of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), and other, less-popular candidates. The PSRM and PAS were recently allied in an unlikely coalition government, which was formed in 2019 to remove the oligarchic regime built by the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) since it came to power in 2015. PDM leader and oligarch Vladimir Plahotnuic fled the country after stepping down.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Despite the removal of Plahotniuc’s kleptocratic government, Moldovan democracy remains characterized by corruption, a politicized judiciary, and limited transparency. Oligarchic influence affects the electoral environment through the poorly regulated media sphere, where ownership and control is concentrated, reporting is highly partisan, and journalists self-censor. TV is the dominant source of news, so partisan manipulation of traditional media marks the overall information environment. Moldova’s highly politicized relationship with Russia and Europe is also reflected in the media sphere. The November vote is likely to feature many of the issues seen in past elections, including vote buying, misuse of public resources, and tension around voting access for residents of Transnistria, a breakaway territory.

    Moldova has a score of 65 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerable in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Moldova’s score reflects weak institutions and rule of law. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 60 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and as a transitional or hybrid regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 35 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Moldova country reports for Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • False or misleading information: Propaganda and disinformation have been observed in past elections and should be expected during the 2020 electoral period, both from domestic and foreign sources. A study by the Center for Media, Data and Society found that misinformation often originates from the mainstream media and official channels, such as government officials or influential business people, rather than inauthentic websites. A number of the accounts that Facebook removed for spreading false and misleading information ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections belonged to government officials. The significant number of Russian-speakers in the country also increases the potential reach of Russian-language misinformation.
    • Influence operations: A 2019 report by the Oxford Internet Institute identified online manipulation campaigns by government agencies and political parties. So-called “cyber troopers” took to Facebook and Instagram to support particular narratives, attack the political opposition, and stoke division. Various influence operations have also targeted discourse about Moldova’s relationship with Russia and Europe. Inauthentic accounts on Facebook and Instagram that originated in Moldova engaged in manipulative tactics during the 2019 parliamentary elections, and Russian-backed online media manipulation has also been reported. Similar domestic and foreign online influence campaigns are likely during the 2020 electoral period.
    • Cyberattacks: Cyberattacks are a frequent concern for civil society and electoral bodies. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, the Central Electoral Commission was targeted with DDos attacks, apparently in an attempt to interfere with the publication of preliminary election results. Election-related cyberattacks are likely in 2020, given the overall prevalence of digital security threats and their deployment during past elections.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Moldova

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    • Global Freedom Score

      61 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      November 1, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      73.56%
    • Population

      3.5 million
  • Morocco

    header1 Country Overview

    Moroccans will head to the polls in September to vote in legislative, municipal, and regional elections. This marks the third general election since the 2011 constitutional reforms, which require the king to name a prime minister from the largest party in Parliament, among other constitutional changes. Many major policy decisions and key cabinet positions remain under the purview of King Mohammed VI. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) has led a fragile coalition since the 2011 elections. Other parties include the center-right Istiqlal Party, the center-left Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and several parties aligned to the royal palace. Despite the 2011 reforms, the palace has often intervened to weaken the PJD, its coalition, and its ability to govern.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Among the key issues in the election are the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the related economic crisis, and the recent decision to normalize relations with Israel. Nonetheless, the perceived ineffectiveness of elected officials has contributed to a strong sense of apathy among voters; turnout in the 2016 election reached a record low. Grassroots activism, such as the Hirak Rif movement against inequality that began in the Rif region, has been met with harsh repression of free expression and civic organizing online and offline. Space for independent media has also shrunk in recent years, and many outlets have been shuttered by harsh licensing laws and advertising restrictions. Surveillance, arrests, and pressure on journalists has deepened self-censorship, especially when reporting on protests, corruption, the monarchy, and other politically sensitive issues.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of the election:

    • Online content manipulation: Morocco’s online information environment is distorted by influential actors, sometimes through surreptitious means. Facebook’s 2021 report on coordinated inauthentic behavior noted the removal of 385 accounts, 6 pages, and 40 Instagram accounts that were used to comment on progovernment stories from various outlets. The accounts criticized popular dissidents, domestic human rights organizations, and people who voiced opposition to the king. They also praised the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many news outlets are either tied to the government or political elites, who informally pressure advertisers to financially support outlets that promote their interests and box out those that are more critical of the government or royal family. The proliferation of progovernment information online has led to a biased media environment that may impact how voters obtain information online ahead of the elections.
    • Harassment of journalists and critics: Journalists, activists, and critics of the royal family are frequently harassed and intimidated on social media. In 2020, online news outlets with close ties to government intelligence services published a smear campaign about Soulaiman Raissouni, a journalist and newspaper editor, who was later arrested. In 2017, Nasser Zefzafi, a prominent leader of the Hirak Rif movement who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in the protests, was the subject of defamatory articles published by progovernment news sites. This atmosphere of intimidation and harassment could impact independent outlets and journalists ahead of the elections.

    Morocco has a score of 42 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects Morocco’s multiparty electoral system and a trend of censorship and restrictions on media freedom. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 37 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 52 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Morocco country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.  

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Morocco

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    • Global Freedom Score

      37 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      52 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      September 2021
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      68.79%
    • Population

      36 million
  • Myanmar

    header1 Country Overview

    Myanmar held its first open and competitive elections in 2015. After decades of military rule, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) handily defeated the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under citizenship rules but serves as de facto leader and heads several key portfolios. Under the constitution, the military controls 25 percent of legislative seats and oversees the country’s ministries of defense, home affairs, and border affairs.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    General elections scheduled for November 2020 will see the NLD again face the USDP, as well as numerous ethnic parties. Harassment, prosecution, and surveillance of the media and civil society contribute to a tenuous electoral environment, as well as doubts over the independence of the election commission, the reliability of voter rolls, and early voting procedures. Buddhist nationalism features prominently in Burmese politics, and the country’s citizenship and electoral laws disenfranchise many members of ethnic minorities, including the predominantly Muslim Rohingyas. Over 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to neighboring Bangladesh in response to the military’s ethnic cleansing campaign in 2017. Ongoing conflict between the military and various ethnic armed organizations remains a threat to peaceful election administration in several areas of the country. Internet penetration stands at approximately 35 percent, leaving many voters reliant on progovernment television and radio outlets for news and information and exacerbating the digital divide, particularly in rural areas.

    Myanmar has a score of 35 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Myanmar’s score reflects limits on free expression and ongoing conflict and human rights abuses against religious and ethnic minorities. It is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 30 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net, with an internet freedom score of 36 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Myanmar country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Hate speech and violence: The internet is an important vector for violence and hatred against Myanmar’s marginalized groups. Investigators concluded that false rumors and incendiary speech shared on social media, notably Facebook, played a role in the atrocities against the Rohingya. Political leaders, the military, and religious extremists may continue to stoke hatred and violence online in the lead-up to the election, heightening tensions in Myanmar.
    • Shutdowns: A partial internet shutdown in villages in Rakhine and Chin states has been in place for over a year. The shutdown hinders residents’ access to electoral resources, and may signal a willingness on the part of the government to extend similar shutdowns to other parts of the country during a political crisis.
    • Influence operations: The military has a record of surreptitiously manipulating online discourses in Myanmar. An influence campaign by the military was reported around the 2018 by-elections, while nearly 700 military officers allegedly participated in a multi-year Facebook operation. The prevalence of information campaigns in past years suggests they are likely to occur during the 2020 election.
    • Censorship: Having previously refrained from blocking online content, in March 2020 the government ordered service providers to restrict access to several independent and regional news outlets known for reporting on developments in conflict areas. The dramatic escalation in censorship in an election year demonstrates that the governing authorities may not be shy to enact more censorial tactics to secure the election.
    • Arrests and intimidation: Activists, online journalists, and members of civil society face criminal charges for their online activities, particularly when criticizing the government, public officials, and the military. Violence and intimidation are especially common in relation to politically sensitive issues, such as the Rohingya crisis.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    Burmese election officials said the vote would go ahead as scheduled, following a request from the USDP to postpone it due a spike in COVID-19 cases. The rise in cases draws attention to the logistical challenges the pandemic poses for sound election administration. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Two political parties accused the UEC of censoring their campaign speeches before being broadcast on state TV and radio. The UEC allegedly removed politically sensitive topics related to ethnicity, socioeconomic issues, and government policy. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The government deemed journalism a “nonessential business,” meaning journalists are subject to COVID-19 movement restrictions in many parts of the country, including Yangon. This restriction potentially limits journalists’ ability to report on developments during the electoral period. Read more.

    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net, which found that internet freedom in Myanmar declined dramatically as the government ramped up censorship ahead of the elections. Read the Myanmar report.

    Incident Alert

    A study released by Burma Human Rights Network reported 39 cases of hate speech and disinformation, some of which were shared over 2,000 times on various social media platforms, ahead of the elections. Anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation featured prominently in these posts. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Myanmar’s government allegedly issued a directive to extend the mobile internet service restrictions in Rakhine and Chin states until the end of the year. The restriction was originally set to end on October 31st. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The Union Election Commission removed the Union Democratic Party from the list of registered political parties due to alleged violation of party registration laws, preventing any of the party’s candidates from contesting the election. Read more.

    On Myanmar

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    • Global Freedom Score

      28 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      31 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      November 8, 2020
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      34.84%
    • Population

      54.0 million
  • Peru

    header1 Country Overview

    Peru’s April election is seen as a test of stability following a political crisis that saw three presidents hold office over the course of one week in November 2020. The vote will determine the country’s fifth president in under five years and all 130 members of Congress. A highly fragmented political landscape consisting of generally unpopular political parties and a large, ideologically diverse candidate pool set expectations that the presidential election will progress to a runoff on June 6.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Peru has a history of generally credible and competitive elections, but an ongoing power struggle between the legislative and executive branches has disrupted the political landscape. Congress impeached President Martín Vizcarra in November 2020 over unproven allegations that he had received bribes during his time as governor. As president of Congress, Manuel Merino succeeded to power for five days before resigning under public pressure. The impeachment and Merino’s ascension prompted mass protests by Peruvians who viewed the impeachment as overtly political; demonstrations were further fueled by the killing of two protesters by the police. Congressman Francisco Sagasti was subsequently installed as interim president. Disillusionment with Peruvian governance will not be the only challenge to the country’s general elections; insufficient regulation of campaign financing, inadequate representation of indigenous groups, an alarmingly disproportionate level of deaths from COVID-19, and widespread corruption allegations against top officials may further chip away at public trust in the electoral landscape.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Harassment and violence for online activity: Digital journalists and online commentators sometimes receive death threats for reporting on links between the government and organized crime groups or for satirizing politicians. Political figures have instigated online harassment. In April 2019, a Congressman accused a news site director of being responsible for the suicide of a former president via a series of tweets. Intimidation by state and nonstate actors often leads to self-censorship, which could reduce the prevalence of critical and independent information ahead of the election. 
    • Laws criminalizing online activity: Peruvian law assigns criminal penalties and civil liabilities for a number of online activities, and sentences for defamation can be harsher for internet-related offenses. Though laws criminalizing online activity are rarely used in Peru, at least one investigative journalist was recently charged with defamation. The ongoing existence of these laws could contribute to self-censorship during electoral periods. 
    • Cyberattacks: Government institutions have succumbed to politicized cyberattacks in recent years. In November 2020, five days after Vizcarra’s removal, Anonymous hacked and temporarily shut down the website of the Peruvian Congress, reportedly in retaliation for police violence against protesters. Cyberattacks in Peru also have a history of tangible political repercussions. In July 2014, information taken from the Council of Minister’s network and shared online by a group known as “LulzSecPeru” helped launch a no-confidence vote against top Cabinet ministers. Reports of cyberattacks ahead of the election could disrupt the political landscape, impact the electoral administration, or undermine trust in the electoral process.

    Peru has a score of 75 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects unequal access to political processes for ethnic and cultural minorities, rule of law deficits, and a lack of government transparency regarding defense and security policies within a relatively vibrant, though tumultuous, political and electoral environment. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 72 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties. To learn more about annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Peru country reports in Freedom in the World

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Peru’s status declined from Free to Partly Free in the 2021 edition of Freedom in the World due to political clashes between the presidency and Congress that have disrupted governance and anticorruption efforts, strained the country’s constitutional order, and resulted in an irregular succession of four presidents within three years. Read the Peru report.

    On Peru

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    • Global Freedom Score

      71 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      April 11, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      62.29%
    • Population

      32. 8 million
  • Russia

    header1 Country Overview

    The September elections to Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, are an opportunity for United Russia to retain its grip on the country’s legislative body. United Russia, the pro-Putin party, has maintained majority control of the Duma since 2003, including winning supermajorities in the 2007 and 2016 elections. The opposition in Russia is divided into two factions: the systemic opposition, comprised of nominally rival parties to United Russia that agree to pose no real challenge in the Duma, and the genuine opposition, which lacks any representation in the parliament. The latter face not only barriers to registration and campaigning, but also rampant abuse of administrative resources by pro-regime forces and widespread propaganda efforts by state-run media.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Putin and United Russia depend on elections to provide a patina of legitimacy in the eyes of the public, but the electoral environment has become more unpredictable for the ruling elite due to the opposition’s innovative messaging and voting strategy. Despite the formal and informal advantages favoring United Russia, some opposition candidates have improved chances to win a seat in the Duma due to a “smart voting” strategy. The strategy, coordinated by the team of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most influential opposition figure, identifies and informs citizens of the candidate most likely to defeat United Russia’s choice. In response to growing uncertainty, the regime’s repressive tactics against the opposition are gradually increasing in severity, including, most notably, the poisoning of Navalny in August 2020. Russian authorities arrested Navalny when he returned to Russia in January after recuperating abroad. Days later, his team at the Anti-Corruption Foundation published a YouTube video highlighting the scale of corruption of the Putin regime, which led to nationwide protests. The government typically restricts freedom of assembly and responded to the “unsanctioned” protests with mass arrests and use of force. In addition to the tight control over opposition activities, Russian voters face their own set of constraints during the election, ranging from pressure from employers and peers to limited ability to access reliable information. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Blocking of websites and social media: Sensitive political and social content is regularly blocked in Russia and access to small social media platforms or messaging apps is sometimes restricted. While wholesale blocks of major messaging platforms are not common practice and the two-year block of Telegram was lifted in June 2020, in March 2021 the telecoms regulator, Roskamandzor, threatened to block Twitter if it failed to remove “banned content” from its platform. Separately, in February 2021, the Duma passed a bill allowing the Central Election Commission (CEC) to require Roskomnadzor to block websites involved in “illegal campaigning.” If signed into law, the new regulation would allow the CEC to circumvent judicial oversight, which could make it easier and faster to block online content through the electoral period. 
    • Internet shutdowns: The government sometimes restricts internet connectivity during politically sensitive moments, including elections. Disruptions tend to be targeted and local, rather than blanket shutdowns affecting entire regions or the whole country. Amid mass protests in advance of the September 2019 regional elections, authorities briefly disabled fixed and mobile internet connections and public Wi-Fi hotpots in parts of Moscow. 
    • Influence operations: Authorities have significant influence over the online information environment through an array of state-run and state-aligned media outlets and the widespread use of paid commentators and automated accounts. As Russians increasingly get their news from social media, rather than traditional sources, the potential impact of online influence operations grows. Persistent influence operations ahead of the election may impact public discourse and prevent voters from accessing reliable information. 
    • Arrests and prosecutions: A plethora of laws limit free expression, providing authorities with an adaptable toolkit to target people who speak out online. The range of criminal and administrative provisions includes penalties for sharing false news, for calling for extremism or separatism online, and for various forms of defamation and slander, including “defamation of power,” which prohibits spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.” In February, the editor of a media outlet who retweeted a satirical post that listed details about a pro-Navalny demonstration was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in jail for supporting an unauthorized protest. 
    • Cyberattacks: A range of actors are regularly targeted with cyberattacks, including independent media, civil society organizations, and opposition leaders. Cyberattacks in recent years have included DDoS attacks against media outlets and attempts to hack into Telegram and Gmail accounts associated with activists and journalists or media outlets. As pressure on critical voices grows ahead of the election, cyberattacks could be used to disrupt their reach or ability to function. 

    Russia has a score of 18 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a consolidated authoritarian system where political engagement, free expression on and offline, and government institutions are controlled and personalized. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021, with a score of 20 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties; Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 30 out of 100; and as a consolidated authoritarian regime in Nations in Transit 2020, with a score of 7 out of 100 for the country’s democratic progress. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Russia country reports in Freedom in the World, Freedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    In the news

    Key digital trends ahead of Russia's election include internet sovereignty, digital election interference, and tensions with technology companies. Listen to new Freedom House analysis on the Bear Market Brief podcast.

    On Russia

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      20 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      30 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      September 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      80.25%
    • Population

      146.7 million
  • Uganda

    header1 Country Overview

    Presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986. His National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has increasingly relied on the misuse of state resources, political patronage, and repression in order to maintain authority. Security forces have been heavily deployed during previous election periods in order to violently disperse protests and intimidate or arrest opposition supporters. Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, and several other opposition personalities have been regularly targeted with physical and legal harassment, as well as surveillance. Journalists have routinely faced pressure and prosecution from the police and interference from the state media regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Since public gatherings are banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the electoral commission has pushed candidates to conduct their campaigns online, leading Ugandans to dub the upcoming vote a “scientific election.” Social media, which was briefly blocked during the previous election, will again serve as an important source of diverse reporting and independent information. However, given that internet penetration is estimated at only 23 percent, the emphasis on online campaigning could exacerbate existing digital divides, particularly in rural areas.

    Uganda has a score of 43 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Uganda’s score reflects problems with the integrity of past elections and the political environment, degraded media freedom and rule of law, and shrinking space for protests and nongovernmental organizations. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 34 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, with an internet freedom score of 56 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Uganda country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Journalists and political activists are often arrested, prosecuted, or threatened with prosecution after criticizing the government online. There is potential for an uptick in arrests for political speech as the election approaches in order to silence opponents and others online.
    • Blocking social media: The government cut off access to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for four days during the 2016 elections. Though social media restrictions have not been repeated since then, the move may signal a willingness on the part of the government to implement similar restrictions on social media and messaging apps in the future, especially during the electoral period.
    • Hate speech: Hate speech, particularly along ethnic lines, is a concern heading into the electoral period. Voter and opposition intimidation have been a problem in the past, and an uptick in hate speech could contribute to an intimidating environment.
    • Influence operations: Researchers documented evidence of bot activity during the 2016 election to amplify posts in favor of President Museveni. There have been no confirmed reports of the government paying individuals to surreptitiously manipulate online discussions. However, this election could still see a rise in coordinated inauthentic behavior, given the booming and unregulated industry for such services around the continent.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    The UCC is moving forward with enforcing a regulation that requires “online data communication and broadcasting services” to register with commission. A UCC spokesperson said sites that fail to meet the October 5 registration deadline will be blocked. Read more.

    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net, which found that President Museveni’s government continues to tighten its grasp on internet users in Uganda through financial and regulatory constraints, as well as by prosecuting voices of dissent. Read the Uganda report.

    Incident Alert

    Opposition candidate Muhammed Ssegirinya was arrested while livestreaming outside of the police station where Bobi Wine was detained, and was charged with “inciting violence.” Ssegirinya’s lawyer said that the charges are for filming evidence of police violence during Bobi Wine’s arrest.” Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Four presidential candidates suspended their campaigns in protest of the arrest of two other candidates, Bobi Wine and Patrick Amuriat. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Anonymous reportedly hacked the Uganda Police Force website and took it offline in response to the violent police crackdown on protesters. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Numerous false and misleading claims about opposition candidate Bobi Wine have circulated on social media, including posts claiming that he has died, that President Barack Obama and President-elect Joe Biden have demanded his release, and that President Donald Trump has endorsed his candidacy.

    Incident Alert

    Bobi Wine indefinitely suspended his presidential campaign after an attack on his car. The decision follows a recent increase in repression and violence against his supporters. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Bobi Wine resumed his presidential campaign after suspending it in protest of violent repression of his supporters. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The Media Council of Uganda revoked the accreditation of all foreign journalists, requiring them to re-register within seven days. Source.

    Incident Alert

    The Financial Intelligence Authority ordered a freeze on the bank accounts of multiple non-governmental organizations involved in good governance work over alleged terrorist financing. Sources report the move may be politically motivated. Source.

    Incident Alert

    The Facebook page for Ghetto TV, a pro-Bobi Wine online channel known for live-streaming his campaign activities, was reportedly hacked and deleted. The account was previously hacked in August. Source.

    Incident Alert

    Google rejected a request from the Uganda Communications Commission to remove over a dozen YouTube channels whose content is seen as sympathetic to opposition candidate Bobi Wine. Source.

    Incident Alert

    The Media Council of Uganda announced that local and foreign journalists must reapply for accreditation in order to cover the elections. Failure to register by the December 30 deadline could result in criminal charges. Source.

    Incident Alert

    Opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine was arrested for allegedly violating a coronavirus campaign ban. However, the restrictions did not apply to the location where Wine was campaigning, suggesting that the arrest was politically motivated. Source.

    Incident Alert

    BBS TV journalist, Culton Scovia Nakamya, was arrested on December 30th alongside Bobi Wine and his campaign team. Nakamya later confirmed that police said she incited violence by posting updates about Bobi Wine’s arrest on social media. Source.

    Incident Alert

    On December 26, 2020, the Electoral Commission issued a statement prohibiting campaigning in Kampala and numerous other districts and cities due to rising COVID-19 infection rates. Analysts and opposition parties argue that the ban is intended to obstruct the opposition.

    Incident Alert

    Presidential candidate Patrick Amuriat was arrested and detained on alleged traffic charges. The Daily Monitor reports that it was his ninth arrest since the Forum for Democratic Change nominated him as their candidate. Source.

    Incident Alert

    Facebook removed a network of inauthentic accounts that was manipulating online discourse ahead of the election. The network was linked to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, and several government officials’ accounts were removed, as were those of other progovernment figures. Source.

    Incident Alert

    The UCC ordered ISPs to block social media and messaging apps “until further notice.” Civil society organizations confirmed that restrictions on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other platforms have been enacted. Source.

    Incident Alert

    Internet connectivity was disrupted nationwide as of 7 p.m. on the night before the election. Source.

    Press Release

    Suspension of Democratic Governance Facility Highlights Growing Concerns: President Yoweri Museveni's order to suspend the initiative comes as opposition parties bring allegations of electoral fraud to the Supreme Court. Read the full statement.

    On Uganda

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    • Global Freedom Score

      34 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      56 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      January 14, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      32.85%
    • Population

      44.3 million
  • United States

    header1 Country Overview

    The November vote is one of the most consequential in recent history for the well-being of American democracy. In the presidential contest, incumbent Donald Trump of the Republican Party is running for a second term against former vice president Joe Biden of the Democratic Party. All 435 seats in the Democrat-led lower chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, are up for election, as are a third of the seats in the Republican-controlled upper chamber, the Senate.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Contributing to preelection tensions are the significant administrative challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s repeated refusal to commit to respecting the outcome of the vote if he were to lose—a stance that is without precedent in the United States. A scenario in which two presidential candidates claim victory after a close or dysfunctional election could be destabilizing, potentially prompting clashes between protesters and police, extended court cases that leave election results in limbo beyond constitutional deadlines, false claims of fraud and disinformation about the integrity of vote totals, or even armed violence by extremist groups.

    The United States has experienced a multiyear decline in its democratic norms and institutions, with growing pressure on election integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption. Partisan manipulation of the electoral process is partly responsible for the degraded quality of elections. A swell of Republican-led efforts to alter voting rules—including onerous voter identification laws and changes in the number and location of polling sites—followed the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This push is viewed by many experts as an attempt to suppress voting by demographic groups that are seen as likely to support Democratic candidates; the resulting disenfranchisement exacerbates a persistent problem that has historically centered on Black voters, but also affects Hispanic communities, Native Americans, students, low-income voters, and others.

    In addition to complicating the electoral process overall, inadequate adjustments to voting procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic may compound these existing disparities. Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which enforces campaign finance law in federal elections, has not been able to meet regularly for over a year due to multiple vacancies. The electoral environment has also been undermined by disinformation and other attempts to manipulate the information landscape by both domestic and foreign actors.

    The United States has a score of 79 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The US score reflects problems with past elections and with the rule of law, including judicial independence, due process, and equal treatment. The country is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 86 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, with an internet freedom score of 77 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the United States country reports for Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • False or misleading information: Though there is a broad range of incorrect information online, false and misleading content about election integrity poses a direct threat to democracy. President Trump himself has fueled such narratives, engaging in baseless attacks on the security of mail-in voting and repeatedly alleging mass fraud without offering any credible evidence. Such claims, particularly by political leaders, undermine the public’s faith in the electoral process and set the stage for politicians and their supporters to reject the legitimacy of unfavorable results.
    • Incitement and violence: In response to clashes between protesters and police during racial justice demonstrations that ramped up in late May, the president issued a series of threatening posts on social media, including a warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—a phrase associated with police violence against civil rights protesters in the 1960s. Twitter flagged the post for “glorifying violence.” During the September 29 presidential debate, after the moderator urged Trump to tell white supremacist groups to “stand down” and not contribute to the protest-related violence, Trump called on one group to “stand back and stand by.” The organization in question reportedly interpreted the comment—which Trump amended under pressure in the following days—as a directive to prepare for action and touted it widely on social media. Trump frequently calls out journalists and prominent critics by name, often on Twitter. Those he identifies, as well as others who challenge him, are in many cases harassed, doxed, or threatened online by the president’s supporters. Such inflammatory remarks by the president, as well as other threatening online discourse, could encourage security forces or private militias and individuals to commit violent acts against protesters, voters, election workers, and other perceived opponents during the 2020 election period. QAnon, an online extremist movement centered on conspiracy theories that elevate Trump as a heroic leader against the forces of evil, has already been linked to multiple instances of violence.
    • Influence operations: Several domestic and foreign influence operations have already been identified online ahead of the elections. A domestic influence campaign using spam-like behavior to spread false content was uncovered in September. The accounts involved, a number of which have since been removed by Facebook and Twitter, were linked to teenagers in Arizona who were paid and managed by an affiliate of a prominent pro-Trump youth organization. In August, US intelligence services acknowledged suspected online influence operations by the regimes of Russia and Iran; Facebook and Twitter reported a Russian-backed network of fake accounts and a website purporting to be a left-wing news outlet the following month. These examples are similar to earlier influence campaigns that have gained prominence in US elections since 2016. Influence operations often rely on the exploitation of existing social and political divisions, and the increasingly tense electoral environment is fertile ground for further manipulation, especially in closely contested swing states where small changes in voter turnout can impact national races.
    • Cyberattacks: In September 2020, Microsoft reported hundreds of election-related cyberattacks originating in Russia, China, and Iran that targeted individuals and organizations, including people associated with both presidential campaigns. Hundreds of ransomware attacks on state and local governments as well as their contractors have also been reported during the year. Extensive cyberattacks were documented during the 2016 elections, including against the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and electoral systems in all 50 states. Some steps have been taken to upgrade election security in the intervening years, but the efforts have been limited, and electoral infrastructure remains vulnerable to infiltration and interference. The full extent of cyberattacks may not be known ahead of the elections, but continued attacks on a range of targets are expected.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    Incident Alert

    Facebook announced new measures, including a ban on political and issue-based advertising after voting ends on November 3, in an attempt to address false and manipulative narratives that may arise in the post-election period. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Facebook expanded its efforts to limit QAnon on its platforms. QAnon has spread on Facebook despite an earlier ban on QAnon groups that called for violence. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The FBI disrupted a plot by a militia to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the government. According to the affidavit, the FBI initially became aware of the plot when individuals were discussing it in a social media group earlier in the year. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    In an effort to address misinformation ahead of the election, Twitter announced that it would adjust certain features on the platform, including the retweet option and what tweets appear on users’ timelines. Read more.

    New Report

    Freedom House released the new edition of Freedom on the Net. Although the online environment in the United States remains largely free from state censorship, the US declined for the fourth straight year in our report. Read the United States report.

    On United States

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    • Global Freedom Score

      83 100 free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      76 100 free
    • Date of Election

      November 3, 2020
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      91.13%
    • Population

      329.2 million
  • Uzbekistan

    header1 Country Overview

    The assessment for this country will be published as soon as it becomes available.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Preelection assessment coming soon...

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    On Uzbekistan

    See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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    • Global Freedom Score

      11 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      27 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      October 24, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Presidential
    • Internet Penetration

      53.48%
    • Population

      34.2 million
  • Venezuela

    header1 Country Overview

    Venezuela’s de facto leader, Nicolás Maduro, was sworn in as president after a snap 2018 election that failed to meet minimum international standards and was widely condemned as illegitimate. The democratically elected National Assembly declared its head, Juan Guaidó, to be Venezuela’s interim president in line with the country’s constitution. Guaidó has since received the backing of more than 50 countries, including the United States. Maduro, however, has refused to relinquish power. Since Guaidó’s legal mandate expires at the end of this legislative term, the December 2020 elections have a direct bearing on the future of the political opposition.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    As in 2018, the upcoming elections for the National Assembly in December 2020 are highly vulnerable to interference and do not meet minimum conditions for credibility. Over 25 opposition parties have declared that they will boycott the vote, citing clear instances of political interference by Maduro and his allies. The Supreme Court side-stepped the constitution by assigning directors of the National Electoral Council, a body normally appointed by the National Assembly to oversee the election. The court has also interfered with opposition parties, including by ordering that party leadership be replaced with Maduro sympathizers. Meanwhile, the authorities have closed off virtually all channels for political dissent by restricting civil liberties and prosecuting perceived opponents without regard for due process, as well as through enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

    Venezuela has a score of 17 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. Venezuela’s score reflects a poor performance across all categories, including the political environment and past elections, as well as broad failure to respect human rights. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 16 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, with an internet freedom score of 30 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Venezuela country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Influence operations: There is extensive evidence that the regime of Nicolas Maduro has manipulated online discussions through state-run media and covert influence campaigns. State officials, public agencies, party activists, semi-automated accounts, and bots harassed the opposition and spread misinformation on Twitter during the May 2018 election. The broader digital environment will likely see increased manipulation ahead of the December vote, including narratives aimed at dividing the opposition.
    • Blocking social media: Social media and livestreaming platforms such as Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are frequently blocked during sensitive political events. The state-owned provider CANTV blocked platforms in November 2019 during protests for fair elections, and again in January 2020 when the opposition-controlled National Assembly was scheduled to swear in new leadership. Shutdowns may occur before, during, or after the December vote, particularly if the regime feels threatened by digital activism and online reporting, which is likely to increase both within the country and among the diaspora.
    • Arrests and intimidation: Political activists, journalists, and low-profile individuals are routinely harassed, arrested or arbitrarily detained, and violently targeted for their online writing. As tensions rise and the regime seeks to control the information landscape, users may face an uptick in legal and extralegal repercussions for social media posts and online reporting.
    • Cyberattacks: Digital media outlets and human rights organizations have faced widespread phishing campaigns, DDoS attacks, and other attempts to disrupt their activities and gain access to sensitive information. Observers strongly suspect the actions are sponsored by or linked to the state, given that attacks often coincide with politically sensitive issues, including the publication of an interview about the “secrets of the Maduro government” in 2018 and Guaidó’s return to the country in 2019. Digital insecurity remains a major vulnerability in the pre-election period.

      Download the preelection assessment PDF. 

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    In the new edition of Freedom on the Net, internet freedom in Venezuela suffered as internet connectivity was frequently disrupted, service providers blocked key sources of independent news and information, and independent online journalists increasingly self-censored. Read the Venezuela report.

    Incident Alert

    Government-owned ISP CANTV blocked 30 websites between October 11 and October 16, including media outlets, sites containing information on COVID-19 offered by the interim government, opposition websites, and streaming platforms. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    The National Electoral Council published new campaign regulations less than a week before the official start of the campaign period. Last minute changes to campaign rules often create confusion and can place opposition candidates at a disadvantage. Read the regulations.

    Incident Alert

    A sustained homophobic smear campaign against Roland Carreño, a journalist and the coordinator of Voluntad Popular, continued when pictures of him that were obtained without his consent were posted on Twitter. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Opposition leaders, human rights activists and relevant opposition digital influencers reposted a video taken in 2016, portraying it as having been taken in 2020. The video is of a meeting where attendees are instructed to vote alongside staff who will ensure they vote in the favor of the governing party. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Interim president Juan Guaidó and other opposition leaders will boycott the election on the basis that it will not be a free and fair contest. The opposition instead plans to hold its own referendum on Nicolás Maduro’s rule. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    Nicolás Maduro claimed victory in Venezuela’s election, which had low turnout and was boycotted by the opposition after a preelection period marred by political interference. Read more.

    Incident Alert

    A fact-checking group found that some hashtags used during the election period, especially those promoted by the Ministry of Communication and Information, came from accounts with high rates of inauthentic behavior - sometimes as high as 79%. Read their thread.

    Incident Alert

    On election day, some voters reportedly found polling places to be closed or delayed in opening without warning. Unforeseen changes to voting centers’ schedules and functioning can directly disenfranchise voters.

    Incident Alert

    Election results were announced in a non-transparent way that at times appear inconsistent with the electoral framework. For example, National Assembly candidate Luis Parra won a seat that he was not nominated for, but later claimed he had changed races without notifying the public. Source.

    On Venezuela

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    • Global Freedom Score

      14 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      28 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      December 6, 2020
    • Type of Election

      Parliamentary
    • Internet Penetration

      66%
    • Population

      28.5 million
  • Vietnam

    header1 Country Overview

    Vietnam is a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), where elections serve as a ritual reaffirmation of the CPV’s decades-old political monopoly. The upcoming National Assembly election will determine the 500 members of Vietnam’s legislative body. The National Assembly is largely subservient to the CPV, following the party lead on the legislative agenda and in appointing government officials. At the CPV’s Party Congress in January, Nguyễn Phú Trọng was reelected as CPV general secretary, defying the party’s two-term leadership rule. 

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Elections are carefully orchestrated by the CPV to ensure regime stability and the absence of popular participation. Candidates on the CPV list are handpicked by the party and made public only weeks before the vote. No other parties are authorized to take part. Independent candidates must be vetted by the CPV, which resulted in the disqualification of over 100 individuals—including prominent members of civil society—during the 2016 election. The CPV won 473 out of 500 seats. The vote-counting process is closed to the public and independent observers. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key digital interference issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Authorities use numerous vaguely worded decrees and articles to bring charges against activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens for their online activities. In January 2021, Phạm Chí Dũng, founder of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of creating and disseminating anti-state propaganda in part for articles he published online. Authorities convicted two fellow journalists for the online publication on similar charges, handing them 11-year prison sentences. The crackdown was seen by civil society as an attempt to squash debate on the country’s leadership ahead of the CPV’s 13th Party Congress that month. Heightened repression is likely during the electoral period in order to maintain the CPV’s domination over the political narrative. 
    • Influence operations: The Vietnamese government manipulates the online information space and public discourse through an electronic army of paid commentators. A unit of approximately 10,000 people hired by the government, known as Force 47, disseminates propaganda, harasses dissidents, and attacks opposition figures on social media, notably Facebook and YouTube. Separately, “public opinion shapers” engage in similar tactics on a voluntary basis. These two cyber forces significantly expand authorities’ capacity to disrupt and distort the online information landscape ahead of the National Assembly elections beyond more traditional forms of media manipulation, which are also prevalent in the country.
    • Forced deletion of content: Government officials routinely pressure social media companies, content hosts, online publications, and individual users themselves to remove content that the state deems critical or “toxic.” In April 2020, full access to Facebook’s local servers was restored reportedly only after the company agreed to remove significantly more “anti-state” content. Separately, Force 47 is believed to mass report anti-state content to social media companies for removal. The forced removal of content deemed unsavory by the government further restricts the already severely curtailed ability of civil society, independent news platforms, and ordinary people to create online space for informed debate.

    Vietnam has a score of 18 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a monopolized political sphere, a punitive online media environment, and severely restricted space for civil society. The country is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 20 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 22 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Vietnam country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Vietnam’s one-point overall score decline in Freedom in the World 2021 report reflected new lows for the country’s media environment, exemplified by the arrest of a journalist with charges carrying a 20-year maximum prison sentence. Read the Vietnam report.

    In the news

    New analysis in The Diplomat discusses how Vietnam's ruling party is flagrantly abusing human rights online and increasingly pressuring social media platforms to secure its monopoly on power. Read the article.

    On Vietnam

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    • Global Freedom Score

      19 100 not free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      22 100 not free
    • Date of Election

      May 23, 2021
    • Type of Election

      Legislative
    • Internet Penetration

      66.54%
    • Population

      96.2 million
  • Zambia

    header1 Country Overview

    Zambia will hold general elections in August as the country’s democracy comes under increasing strain. President Edward Lungu’s tenure has featured pressure on democratic institutions and civic space, including a failed attempt to pass constitutional amendments that would vest the presidency with increased powers over election processes and the judiciary. Lungu, who leads the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, assumed office in 2014 upon the death of his predecessor and was reelected in 2016. Zambia’s highest court—composed entirely of Lungu appointees—ruled in 2018 that he was eligible to contest the 2021 elections and that constitutional provisions limiting a president to two five-year terms did not apply. Lungu’s main challenger in the August elections is perennial presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema, the head of the United Party for National Development (UPND), the primary opposition party. The election is expected to be highly contested: Lungu won re-election in the 2016 general elections with only 13,000 votes over the required 50 percent margin. Alongside the presidency, 156 of the 167 National Assembly seats will be contested.

    header2 Preelection assessment

    Serious concerns over the administration and credibility of the 2021 elections have already emerged. In 2020, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced that registered voters would be required to re-certify their registrations, reversing a 15-year-old policy of retaining voter rolls. Hichilema and others in the opposition have criticized a provisional voter register published in March 2021 that, when compared to the 2016 register, contained over 266,000 more voters in provinces that have historically supported the PF and almost 100,000 fewer voters in provinces that have historically supported the UPND. Meanwhile, PF officials accused Hichilema of corruption in late 2020 related to his 2004 purchase of a farm, leading to a police investigation that sparked rumors of Hichilema’s impending arrest. The 2016 elections were marred by restrictions on opposition-aligned media, misuse of public resources by the PF, election-related violence between PF and UPND supporters, and restrictions on opposition rallies. Following the PF’s victory in 2016, Hichilema was arrested on politicized charges of treason and Lungu imposed a state of emergency that constrained media freedom and empowered law enforcement. 

    Freedom House has identified the following as key issues to watch ahead of election day:

    • Arrests and prosecutions: Arrests and prosecutions for online activities are common in Zambia, particularly for defaming Lungu. Social media users have also been arrested on charges of publishing false news and seditious publication with intent to cause fear and alarm. In March 2021, Lungu signed a cybercrime law that establishes expansive new provisions for online speech, as well as broad authority for online surveillance. The new law, which includes a ban on publication of “obscene” content and disclosure of information about criminal investigations, further adds to the arsenal of legal tools that the government may use to silence online critics during the electoral period, particularly journalists.
    • Internet shutdowns: Widespread connectivity disruptions were reported alongside mass protests over the outcome of the disputed 2016 presidential election. The disruptions, which lasted between 48 and 72 hours, were localized to areas with strong opposition support, leading to strong suspicions of government interference. Opposition-led protests ahead of or after the elections could prompt similar restrictions on connectivity.  
    • Influence operations: Media reports and statements from officials indicate that the PF has invested in efforts to shape the online media environment. Both progovernment and pro-opposition social media accounts have been known to spread false news stories online. Reporting in 2020 alleged that the PF’s strategic plan for 2018 to 2021 included the establishment of a media intelligence unit for covert operations consisting of bloggers, hackers, and reporters to influence media narratives. The heightened tensions of the elections season may make the online media landscape more prone to manipulation by domestic political actors. 

    Zambia has a score of 59 out of 100, with 100 representing the least vulnerability in terms of election integrity, on Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index, which is based on a selection of key election-related indicators. The score reflects a history of regular multiparty elections marred by alleged irregularities, and a trend of restrictions on media freedom and human rights. The country is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, with a score of 54 out of 100 with respect to its political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, with an internet freedom score of 59 out of 100. To learn more about these annual Freedom House assessments, please visit the Zambia country reports in Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.

    Download the preelection assessment PDF.

    A Digital Sphere

    B Electoral System and Political Participation

    C Human Rights

    News and Updates
    New Report

    Zambia earned a two-point decline in Freedom in the World 2021, reflecting a failure to prosecute senior officials despite evidence of corruption, as well as opacity surrounding public funds and the country’s economic management. Read the Zambia report.

    On Zambia

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    • Global Freedom Score

      52 100 partly free
    • Internet Freedom Score

      59 100 partly free
    • Date of Election

      August 12, 2021
    • Type of Election

      General
    • Internet Penetration

      26.79%
    • Population

      18.4 million