Methodology | Freedom House


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The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the state of global freedom as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom--the opportunity to act spontaneously in a variety of fields outside the control of the government and other centers of potential domination--according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. Political rights enable people to participate freely in the political process, including the right to vote freely for distinct alternatives in legitimate elections, compete for public office, join political parties and organizations, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate. Civil liberties allow for the freedoms of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy without interference from the state.

Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political rights and civil liberties, derived in large measure from relevant portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. The survey operates from the assumption that freedom for all peoples is best achieved in liberal democratic societies.

The survey does not rate governments or government performance per se, but rather the real-world rights and social freedoms enjoyed by individuals. Freedoms can be affected by state actions, as well as by nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups. Thus, the survey ratings generally reflect the interplay of a variety of actors, both governmental and nongovernmental.

The survey includes both analytical reports and numerical ratings for 192 countries and 14 select territories.1 Each country and territory report includes an overview section, which provides historical background and a brief description of the year's major developments, as well as a section summarizing the current state of political rights and civil liberties. In addition, each country and territory is assigned a numerical rating--on a scale of 1 to7--for political rights and an analogous rating for civil liberties; a rating of 1 indicates the highest degree of freedom and 7 the least amount of freedom. These ratings, calculated based on the methodological process described below, determine whether a country is classified as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free by the survey.

The survey findings are reached after a multilayered process of analysis and evaluation by a team of regional experts and scholars (see below). Although there is an element of subjectivity inherent in the survey findings, the ratings process emphasizes intellectual rigor and balanced and unbiased judgments.

History Of The Survey

Freedom House's first year-end reviews of freedom began in the 1950s as the Balance Sheet of Freedom. This modest report provided assessments of political trends and their implications for individual freedom. In 1972, Freedom House launched a new, more comprehensive annual study of freedom called The Comparative Study of Freedom. Raymond Gastil, a Harvard-trained specialist in regional studies from the University of Washington at Seattle, developed the survey's methodology, which assigned political rights and civil liberties ratings to 151 countries and 45 territories and--based on these ratings--categorized them as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. The findings appeared each year in Freedom House's Freedom at Issue bimonthly journal (later titled Freedom Review). The survey first appeared in book form in 1978 under the title Freedom in the World and included short, explanatory narratives for each country and territory rated in the study, as well as a series of essays by leading scholars on related issues. Freedom in the World continued to be produced by Gastil until 1989, when a larger team of in-house survey analysts was established. In the mid-1990s, the expansion of Freedom in the World's country and territory narratives demanded the hiring of outside analysts--a group of regional experts from the academic, media, and human rights communities. The survey has continued to grow in size and scope; the 2006 edition is the most exhaustive in the Freedom in the World's 34-year tenure.

Research And Ratings Review Process

This year's survey covers developments from December 1, 2004, through November 30, 2005, in 192 countries and 14 territories. The research and ratings process involved two dozen analysts and more than a dozen senior-level academic advisors. The eight members of the core research team headquartered in New York, along with 16 outside consultant analysts, prepared the country and territory reports. The analysts used a broad range of sources of information--including foreign and domestic news reports, academic analyses, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, individual professional contacts, and visits to the region--in preparing the reports.

The country and territory ratings were proposed by the analyst responsible for each related report. The ratings were reviewed individually and on a comparative basis in a series of six regional meetings--Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Europe--involving the analysts, academic advisors with expertise in each region, and Freedom House staff. The ratings were compared to the previous year's findings, and any major proposed numerical shifts or category changes were subjected to more intensive scrutiny. These reviews were followed by cross-regional assessments in which efforts were made to ensure comparability and consistency in the findings. Many of the key country reports were also reviewed by the academic advisers.

Changes To The 2006 Edition Of Freedom In The World

The survey's methodology is reviewed periodically by an advisory committee of political scientists with expertise in methodological issues. Over the years, the committee has made a number of modest methodological changes to adapt to evolving ideas about political rights and civil liberties. At the same time, the time series data are not revised retroactively, and any changes to the methodology are introduced incrementally in order to ensure the comparability of the ratings from year to year.

In September 2005, the methodology committee met and accepted some minor changes to the checklist questions that the analysts use to rate the countries and territories. These changes consisted primarily of rewording several questions to provide greater clarity. The committee also approved a series of guidelines to assist the analysts in the ratings process. These "checklist question guidelines" are intended to provide guidance to the analysts regarding the issues to be considered in scoring each numbered checklist question; the authors are not required to consider every sub-question in scoring their countries, as some of the issues may not apply to every country. (The checklist question guidelines immediately follow the methodology essay.)

Ratings Process

(NOTE: See the full checklists and keys to political rights and civil liberties ratings and status at the end of the methodology essay.)

Raw Points -- The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into the three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4). Raw points are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where 0 points represents the smallest degree and 4 points the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The only exception to the addition of 0 to 4 points per checklist item is Additional Discretionary Question B in the Political Rights Checklist, for which 1 to 4 points are subtracted depending on the severity of the situation. The highest number of points that can be awarded to the political rights checklist is 40 (or a total of up to 4 points for each of the 10 questions). The highest number of points that can be awarded to the civil liberties checklist is 60 (or a total of up to 4 points for each of the 15 questions).

In answering both the political rights and civil liberties questions, Freedom House does not equate constitutional or other legal guarantees of rights with the on-the-ground fulfillment of these rights. While both laws and actual practices are factored into the ratings decisions, greater emphasis is placed on the latter.

In addition, for states and territories with small populations, the absence of pluralism in the political system or civil society is not necessarily viewed as a negative situation unless the government or other centers of domination are deliberately blocking its establishment or operation. For example, a small country without diverse political parties or media outlets or significant trade unions are not penalized if these limitations are determined to be a function of size and not overt restrictions.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties Ratings -- The total number of points awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklists determines the political rights and civil liberties ratings. Each point total corresponds to a rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom (see Tables 1 and 2).

Status of Free, Partly Free, Not Free -- Each pair of political rights and civil liberties ratings is averaged to determine an overall status of "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free." Those whose ratings average 1.0 to 2.5 are considered Free, 3.0 to 5.0 Partly Free, and 5.5 to 7.0 Not Free (see Table 3).

The designations of Free, Partly Free, and Not Free each cover a broad third of the available raw points. Therefore, countries and territories within any one category, especially those at either end of the category, can have quite different human rights situations. In order to see the distinctions within each category, a country or territory's political rights and civil liberties ratings should be examined. For example, countries at the lowest end of the Free category (2 in political rights and 3 in civil liberties, or 3 in political rights and 2 in civil liberties) differ from those at the upper end of the Free group (1 for both political rights and civil liberties). Also, a designation of Free does not mean that a country enjoys perfect freedom or lacks serious problems, only that it enjoys comparably more freedom than Partly Free or Not Free (or some other Free) countries.

Indications of Ratings and/or Status Changes -- Each country or territory's political rights rating, civil liberties rating, and status is included in the statistics section that precedes each country or territory report. A change in a political rights or civil liberties rating since the previous survey edition is indicated with an asterisk next to the rating that has changed. A brief ratings change explanation is included in the statistics section.

Trend Arrows -- Upward or downward trend arrows may be assigned to countries and territories. Trend arrows indicate general positive or negative trends since the previous survey that are not necessarily reflected in the raw points and do not warrant a ratings change. A country cannot receive both a numerical ratings change and a trend arrow in the same year. A trend arrow is indicated with an arrow next to the name of the country or territory that appears before the statistics section at the top of each country or territory report.

General Characteristics Of Each Political Rights And Civil Liberties Rating

Political Rights

Rating of 1 -- Countries and territories that receive a rating of 1 for political rights come closest to ensuring the freedoms embodied in the checklist questions, beginning with free and fair elections. Those who are elected rule, there are competitive parties or other political groupings, and the opposition plays an important role and has actual power. Minority groups have reasonable self-government or can participate in the government through informal consensus.

Rating of 2 -- Countries and territories rated 2 in political rights are less free than those rated 1. Such factors as political corruption, violence, political discrimination against minorities, and foreign or military influence on politics may be present and weaken the quality of freedom.

Ratings of 3, 4, 5 -- The same conditions that undermine freedom in countries and territories with a rating of 2 may also weaken political rights in those with a rating of 3, 4, or 5. Other damaging elements can include civil war, heavy military involvement in politics, lingering royal power, unfair elections, and one-party dominance. However, states and territories in these categories may still enjoy some elements of political rights, including the freedom to organize quasi-political groups, reasonably free referendums, or other significant means of popular influence on government.

Rating of 6 -- Countries and territories with political rights rated 6 have systems ruled by military juntas, one-party dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. These regimes may allow only a minimal manifestation of political rights, such as some degree of representation or autonomy for minorities. A few states are traditional monarchies that mitigate their relative lack of political rights through the use of consultation with their subjects, tolerance of political discussion, and acceptance of public petitions.

Rating of 7 -- For countries and territories with a rating of 7, political rights are absent or virtually nonexistent as a result of the extremely oppressive nature of the regime or severe oppression in combination with civil war. States and territories in this group may also be marked by extreme violence or warlord rule that dominates political power in the absence of an authoritative, functioning central government.

Civil Liberties

Rating of 1 -- Countries and territories that receive a rating of 1 come closest to ensuring the freedoms expressed in the civil liberties checklist, including freedom of expression, assembly, association, education, and religion. They are distinguished by an established and generally equitable system of rule of law. Countries and territories with this rating enjoy free economic activity and tend to strive for equality of opportunity.

Rating of 2 -- States and territories with a rating of 2 have deficiencies in a few aspects of civil liberties, but are still relatively free.

Ratings of 3, 4, 5 -- Countries and territories that have received a rating of 3, 4, or 5 range from those that are in at least partial compliance with virtually all checklist standards to those with a combination of high or medium scores for some questions and low or very low scores on other questions. The level of oppression increases at each successive rating level, including in the areas of censorship, political terror, and the prevention of free association. There are also many cases in which groups opposed to the state engage in political terror that undermines other freedoms. Therefore, a poor rating for a country is not necessarily a comment on the intentions of the government, but may reflect real restrictions on liberty caused by nongovernmental actors.

Rating of 6 -- People in countries and territories with a rating of 6 experience severely restricted rights of expression and association, and there are almost always political prisoners and other manifestations of political terror. These countries may be characterized by a few partial rights, such as some religious and social freedoms, some highly restricted private business activity, and relatively free private discussion.

Rating of 7 -- States and territories with a rating of 7 have virtually no freedom. An overwhelming and justified fear of repression characterizes these societies.

Countries and territories generally have ratings in political rights and civil liberties that are within two ratings numbers of each other. Without a well-developed civil society, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have an atmosphere supportive of political rights. Consequently, there is no country in the survey with a rating of 6 or 7 for civil liberties and, at the same time, a rating of 1 or 2 for political rights.

Electoral Democracy Designation

In addition to providing numerical ratings, the survey assigns the designation "electoral democracy" to countries that have met certain minimum standards. In determining whether a country is an electoral democracy, Freedom House examines several key factors concerning how its national leadership is chosen.

To qualify as an electoral democracy, a state must have satisfied the following criteria:

1) A competitive, multiparty political system;

2) Universal adult suffrage for all citizens (with exceptions for restrictions that states may legitimately place on citizens as sanctions for criminal offenses);

3) Regularly contested elections conducted in conditions of ballot secrecy, reasonable ballot security, and in the absence of massive voter fraud, and that yield results that are representative of the public will;

4) Significant public access of major political parties to the electorate through the media and through generally open political campaigning.

The electoral democracy designation reflects a judgment about the last major national election or elections. In the case of presidential/parliamentary systems, both elections must have been free and fair on the basis of the above criteria; in parliamentary systems, the last nationwide elections for the national legislature must have been free and fair. The presence of certain irregularities during the electoral process does not automatically disqualify a country from being designated an electoral democracy. A country cannot be an electoral democracy if significant authority for national decisions resides in the hands of an unelected power, whether a monarch or a foreign international authority. A country is removed from the ranks of electoral democracies if its last national election failed to meet the criteria listed above, or if changes in law significantly eroded the public's possibility for electoral choice.

Freedom House's term "electoral democracy" differs from "liberal democracy" in that the latter also implies the presence of a substantial array of civil liberties. In the survey, all Free countries qualify as both electoral and liberal democracies. By contrast, some Partly Free countries qualify as electoral, but not liberal, democracies.

Freedom In The World 2006 Checklist Questions And Guidelines

The bulleted sub-questions are intended to provide guidance to the writers regarding what issues are meant to be considered in scoring each numbered checklist question; the authors do not necessarily have to consider every sub-question in scoring their countries.

Political Rights Checklist

A. Electoral Process

1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?

  • Did established and reputable national and/or international election monitoring organizations judge the most recent elections for head of government to be free and fair? (Note: Heads of government chosen through various electoral frameworks, including direct elections for president, indirect elections for prime minister by parliament, and the electoral college system for electing presidents, are covered under this and the following sub-questions. In cases of indirect elections for the head of government, the elections for the legislature that chose the head of government, as well as the selection process of the head of government himself, should be taken into consideration.)
  • Have there been undue, politically motivated delays in holding the most recent election for head of government?
  • Is the registration of voters and candidates conducted in an accurate, timely, transparent, and nondiscriminatory manner?
  • Can candidates make speeches, hold public meetings, and enjoy media access throughout the campaign free of intimidation?
  • Does voting take place by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure?
  • Are voters able to vote for the candidate or party of their choice without undue pressure or intimidation?
  • Is the vote count transparent, and is it reported honestly with the official results made public? Can election monitors from independent groups and representing parties/candidates watch the counting of votes to ensure their honesty?
  • Is each person's vote given equivalent weight to those of other voters in order to ensure equal representation? " Has a democratically elected head of government who was chosen in the most recent election subsequently been overthrown in a violent coup? (Note: Although a peaceful, "velvet coup" may ultimately lead to a positive outcome--particularly if it replaces a head of government who was not freely and fairly elected--the new leader has not been freely and fairly elected and cannot be treated as such.)

2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?

  • Did established and reputable domestic and/or international election monitoring organizations judge the most recent national legislative elections to be free and fair?
  • Have there been undue, politically motivated delays in holding the most recent national legislative election?
  • Is the registration of voters and candidates conducted in an accurate, timely, transparent, and nondiscriminatory manner?
  • Can candidates make speeches, hold public meetings, and enjoy media access throughout the campaign free of intimidation?
  • Does voting take place by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure?
  • Are voters able to vote for the candidate or party of their choice without undue pressure or intimidation?
  • Is the vote count transparent, and is it reported honestly with the official results made public? Can election monitors from independent groups and representing parties/candidates watch the counting of votes to ensure their honesty?
  • Is each person's vote given equivalent weight to those of other voters in order to ensure equal representation?
  • Have the representatives of a democratically elected national legislature who were chosen in the most recent election subsequently been overthrown in a violent coup? (Note: Although a peaceful, "velvet coup" may ultimately lead to a positive outcome--particularly if it replaces a national legislature whose representatives were not freely and fairly elected--members of the new legislature have not been freely and fairly elected and cannot be treated as such.)

3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?

  • Is there a clear, detailed, and fair legislative framework for conducting elections? (Note: Changes to electoral laws should not be made immediately preceding an election if the ability of voters, candidates, or parties to fulfill their roles in the election is infringed.)
  • Are election commissions or other election authorities independent and free from government or other pressure and interference?
  • Is the composition of election commissions fair and balanced?
  • Do election commissions or other election authorities conduct their work in an effective and competent manner?
  • Do adult citizens enjoy universal and equal suffrage? (Note: Suffrage can be suspended or withdrawn for reasons of legal incapacity, such as mental incapacity, or conviction of a serious criminal offense.)
  • Is the drawing of election districts conducted in a fair and nonpartisan manner, as opposed to gerrymandering for personal or partisan advantage?
  • Has the selection of a system for choosing legislative representatives (such as proportional versus majoritarian) been manipulated to advance certain political interests or to influence the electoral results? 

B. Political Pluralism And Participation

1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other com-petitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?

  • Do political parties encounter undue legal or practical obstacles in their efforts to be formed and to operate, including onerous registration requirements, excessively large membership requirements, etc.?
  • Do parties face discriminatory or onerous restrictions in holding meetings, rallies, or other peaceful activities? " Are party members or leaders intimidated, harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to violent attacks as a result of their peaceful political activities?

2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic possibility for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?

  • Are various legal/administrative restrictions selectively applied to opposition parties to prevent them from increasing their support base or successfully competing in elections?
  • Are there legitimate opposition forces in positions of authority, such as in the national legislature or in subnational governments?
  • Are opposition party members or leaders intimidated, harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to violent attacks as a result of their peaceful political activities?

3. Are the people's political choices free from domination by the military, foreignpowers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?

  • Do such groups offer bribes to voters and/or political figures in order to influence their political choices?
  • Do such groups intimidate, harass, or attack voters and/or political figures in order to influence their political choices?
  • Does the military control or enjoy a preponderant influence over government policy and activities, including in countries that nominally are under civilian control?
  • Do foreign governments control or enjoy a preponderant influence over government policy and activities by means including the presence of foreign military troops, the use of significant economic threats or sanctions, etc.?

4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?

  • Do political parties of various ideological persuasions address issues of specific concern to minority groups?
  • Does the government inhibit the participation of minority groups in national or subnational political life through laws and/or practical obstacles?
  • Are political parties based on ethnicity, culture, or religion which espouse peaceful, democratic values legally permitted and de facto allowed to operate? 

C. Functioning Of Government

1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?

  • Are the candidates who were elected freely and fairly duly installed in office?
  • Do other appointed or non-freely elected state actors interfere with or prevent freely elected representatives from adopting and implementing legislation and making meaningful policy decisions?
  • Do nonstate actors, including criminal gangs, the military, and foreign governments, interfere with or prevent elected representatives from adopting and implementing legislation and making meaningful policy decisions?

2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?

  • Has the government implemented effective anticorruption laws or programs to prevent, detect, and punish corruption among public officials, including conflict of interest?
  • Is the government free from excessive bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, or other controls that increase opportunities for corruption?
  • Are there independent and effective auditing and investigative bodies that function without impediment or political pressure or influence?
  • Are allegations of corruption by government officials thoroughly investigated and prosecuted without prejudice, particularly against political opponents?
  • Are allegations of corruption given wide and extensive airing in the media?
  • Do whistle-blowers, anticorruption activists, investigators, and journalists enjoy legal protections that make them feel secure about reporting cases of bribery and corruption?
  • What was the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index score for this country?

3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?

  • Are civil society groups, interest groups, journalists, and other citizens able to comment on and influence pending policies of legislation?
  • Do citizens have the legal right and practical ability to obtain information about government operations and the means to petition government agencies for it?
  • Is the budget-making process subject to meaningful legislative review and public scrutiny?
  • Does the government publish detailed accounting expenditures in a timely fashion?
  • Does the state ensure transparency and effective competition in the awarding of government contracts?
  • Are the asset declarations of government officials open to public and media scrutiny and verification?

Additional Discretionary Political Rights Questions:

1. For traditional monarchies that have no parties or electoral process, does the sys-tem provide for genuine, meaningful consultation with the people, encourage public discussion of policy choices, and allow the right to petition the ruler?

  • Is there a non-elected legislature that advises the monarch on policy issues?
  • Are there formal mechanisms for individuals or civic groups to speak with or petition the monarch?
  • Does the monarch take petitions from the public under serious consideration?

2. Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic compo-sition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group?

  • Is the government providing economic or other incentives to certain people in order to change the ethnic composition of a region or regions?
  • Is the government forcibly moving people in or out of a certain or areas in order to change the ethnic composition of those regions?
  • Is the government arresting, imprisoning, or killing members of certain ethnic groups in order change the ethnic composition of a region or regions?

Civil Liberties Checklist

D. Freedom Of Expression And Belief

1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?(Note: In cases where the media are state-controlled but offer pluralistic points of view, the survey gives the system credit.)

  • Does the government directly or indirectly censor print, broadcast, and/ or internet-based media?
  • Is self-censorship among journalists common, especially when reporting on politically sensitive issues, including corruption or the activities of senior officials?
  • Does the government use libel and security laws to punish those who scrutinize government officials and policies through either onerous fines or imprisonment?
  • Is it a crime to insult the honor and dignity of the president and/or other government officials? How broad is the range of such prohibitions, and how vigorously are they enforced?
  • If media outlets are dependent on the government for their financial survival, does the government withhold funding in order to propagandize, primarily provide official points of view, and/or limit access by opposition parties and civic critics?
  • Does the government attempt to influence media content and access through means including politically motivated awarding of broadcast frequencies and newspaper registrations, unfair control and influence over printing facilities and distribution networks, selective distribution of advertising, onerous registration requirements, prohibitive tariffs, and bribery?
  • Are journalists threatened, arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or killed by government or nongovernmental actors for their legitimate journalistic activities, and if such cases occur, are they investigated and prosecuted fairly and expeditiously?
  • Are works of literature, art, music, and other forms of cultural expression censored or banned for political purposes?

2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?

  • Are registration requirements employed to impede the free functioning of religious institutions?
  • Are members of religious groups, including minority faiths and movements, harassed, fined, arrested, or beaten by the authorities for engaging in their religious practices?
  • Does the government appoint or otherwise influence the appointment of religious leaders?
  • Does the government control the production and distribution of religious books and other materials and the content of sermons?
  • Is the construction of religious buildings banned or restricted?
  • Does the government place undue restrictions on religious education? Does the government require religious education?

3. Is there academic freedom and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?

  • Are teachers and professors free to pursue academic activities of a political and quasi-political nature without fear of physical violence or intimidation by state or nonstate actors?
  • Does the government pressure, strongly influence, or control the content of school curriculums for political purposes?
  • Are student associations that address issues of a political nature allowed to function freely?
  • Does the government, including through school administration or other officials, pressure students and/or teachers to support certain political figures or agendas, including pressuring them to attend political rallies or vote for certain candidates? Conversely, does the government, including through school administration or other officials, discourage or forbid students and/or teachers from supporting certain candidates and parties?

4. Is there open and free private discussion?

  • Are people able to engage in private discussions, particularly of a political nature (in places including restaurants, public transportation, and their homes) without fear of harassment or arrest by the authorities?
  • Does the government employ people or groups to engage in public surveillance and to report alleged antigovernment conversations to the authorities? 

E. Associational And Organizational Rights

1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?

  • Are peaceful protests, particularly those of a political nature, banned or severely restricted?
  • Are the legal requirements to obtain permission to hold peaceful demonstrations particularly cumbersome and time consuming?
  • Are participants of peaceful demonstrations intimidated, arrested, or assaulted?
  • Are peaceful protestors detained by police in order to prevent them from engaging in such actions?

2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations? (Note: This includes civic organizations, interest groups, foundations, etc.)

  • Are registration and other legal requirements for nongovernmental organizations particularly onerous and intended to prevent them from functioning freely?
  • Are laws related to the financing of nongovernmental organizations unduly complicated and cumbersome?
  • Are donors and funders of nongovernmental organizations free of government pressure?
  • Are members of nongovernmental organizations intimidated, arrested, imprisoned, or assaulted because of their work?

3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining?  Are there free professional and other private organizations?

  • Are trade unions allowed to be established and to operate free from government interference?
  • Are workers pressured by the government or employers to join or not to join certain trade unions, and do they face harassment, violence, or dismissal from their jobs if they do?
  • Are workers permitted to engage in strikes, and do members of unions face reprisals for engaging in peaceful strikes? (Note: This question may not apply to workers in essential government services or public safety jobs.)
  • Are unions able to bargain collectively with employers and able to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that are honored in practice?
  • For states with very small populations or primarily agriculturally based economies that do not necessarily support the formation of trade unions, does the government allow for the establishment of peasant organizations or their equivalents? Is there legislation expressively forbidding the formation of trade unions?
  • Are professional organizations, including business associations, allowed to operate freely and without government interference? 

F. Rule Of Law

1. Is there an independent judiciary?

  • Is the judiciary subject to interference from the executive branch of government or from other political, economic, or religious influences?
  • Are judges appointed and dismissed in a fair and unbiased manner?
  • Do judges rule fairly and impartially, or do they commonly render verdicts that favor the government or particular interests, whether in return for bribes or other reasons?
  • Do executive, legislative, and other governmental authorities compy with judicial decisions, and are these decisions effectively enforced?
  • Do powerful private concerns comply with judicial decisions, and are decisions that run counter to the interests of powerful actors effectively enforced?

2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?

  • Are defendants' rights, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, protected?
  • Are detainees provided access to independent, competent legal counsel?
  • Are defendants given a fair, public, and timely hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal?
  • Are prosecutors independent of political control and influence?
  • Are prosecutors independent of powerful private interests, whether legal or illegal?
  • Is there effective and democratic civilian state control of law enforcement officials through the judicial, legislative, and executive branches?
  • Are law enforcement officials free from the influence of nonstate actors, including organized crime, powerful commercial interests, or other groups?

3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture,whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?

  • Do law enforcement officials make arbitrary arrests and detentions without warrants or fabricate or plant evidence on suspects?
  • Do law enforcement officials beat detainees during arrest and interrogation or use excessive force or torture to extract confessions?
  • Are conditions in pretrial facilities and prisons humane and respectful of the human dignity of inmates?
  • Do citizens have the means of effective petition and redress when their rights are violated by state authorities?
  • Are there private/nonstate actors operating in the country that engage in kidnapping for ransom, murder, or other violent crimes against the general population or specific groups?
  • Is the population subjected to physical harm, forced removal, or other acts of violence or terror due to civil conflict or war?

4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?

  • Are members of various distinct groups--including ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals, and the disabled--able to exercise effectively their human rights with full equality before the law?
  • Is violence against such groups widespread, and if so, are perpetrators brought to justice?
  • Do members of such groups face legal and/or de facto discrimination in areas including employment, education, and housing because of their identification with a particular group?
  • Do women enjoy full equality in law and in practice as compared to men? 

G. Personal Autonomy And Individual Rights

1. Does the state control travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?

  • Are there restrictions on foreign travel, including the use of an exit visa system, which may be issued selectively?
  • Is permission required from the authorities to move within the country?
  • Does the government determine or otherwise influence a person's type and place of employment?
  • Are bribes or other inducements for government officials needed to obtain the necessary documents to travel, change one's place of residence or employment, enter institutions of higher education, or advance in school?

2. Do citizens have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?

  • Are people legally allowed to purchase and sell land and other property, and can they do so in practice without undue interference from the government or nonstate actors?
  • Does the government provide adequate and timely compensation to people whose property is expropriated under eminent domain laws?
  • Are people legally allowed to establish and operate private businesses with a reasonable minimum of registration, licensing, and other requirements?
  • Are bribes or other inducements needed to obtain the necessary legal documents to operate private businesses?
  • Do private/nonstate actors, including criminal groups, seriously impede private business activities through such measures as extortion?

3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?

  • Is violence against women, including wife-beating and rape, wide-spread, and are perpetrators brought to justice?
  • Is the trafficking of women and/or children abroad for prostitution widespread, and is the government taking adequate efforts to address the problem?
  • Do women face de jure and de facto discrimination in economic and social matters, including property and inheritance rights, divorce proceedings, and child custody matters?
  • Does the government directly or indirectly control choice of marriage partners through means such as requiring large payments to marry certain individuals (e.g., foreign citizens) or by not enforcing laws against child marriage or dowry payments?
  • Does the government determine the number of children that a couple may have?
  • Does the government engage in state-sponsored religious/cultural/ethnic indoctrination and related restrictions on personal freedoms?
  • Do private institutions, including religious groups, unduly infringe on the rights of individuals, including choice of marriage partner, dress, etc.?

4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?

  • Does the government exert tight control over the economy, including through state ownership and the setting of prices and production quotas?
  • Do the economic benefits from large state industries, including the energy sector, benefit the general population or only a privileged few?
  • Do private interests exert undue influence on the economy through monopolistic practices, cartels, or illegal blacklists, boycotts, or discrimination?
  • Is entrance to institutions of higher education or the ability to obtain employment limited by widespread nepotism and the payment of bribes?
  • Are certain groups, including ethnic or religious minorities, less able to enjoy certain economic benefits than others? For example, are certain groups restricted from holding particular jobs, whether in the public or the private sector, because of de jure or de facto discrimination?
  • Do state or private employers exploit their workers through activities including unfairly withholding wages and permitting or forcing employees to work under unacceptably dangerous conditions, as well as through adult slave labor and child labor?

NOTE: For each political rights and civil liberties checklist question, 0 to 4 points are added, depending on the comparative rights and liberties present (0 represents the least, 4 represents the most). However, for additional discretionary question B only, 1 to 4 points are subtracted, when necessary.

1. These territories are selected based on their political significance and size. FreedomHouse divides territories into two categories: related territories and disputed territories. Related territories consist mostly of colonies, protectorates, and island dependencies of sovereign states that are in some relation of dependency to that state and whose relationship is not currently in serious legal or political dispute. Disputed territories are areas within internationally recognized sovereign states whose status is in serious political or violent dispute and whose conditions differ substantially from those of the relevant sovereign states. They are often outside of central government control and characterized by intense, longtime, and widespread insurgency or independence movements that enjoy popular support.

Key To Raw Points, Political Rights And Civil Liberties Ratings, And Status

Political Rights (PR)
Total Raw Points

PR Rating

Civil Liberties (CL)
Total Raw Points

CL Rating





























Combined Average of the
PR and CL Ratings

Country Status

1.0 - 2.5


3.0 - 5.0

Partly Free

5.5 - 7.0

Not Free