2014 saw a distinct decline in global freedom, according to an annual report from the watchdog organization Freedom House released Sunday - with the Middle East the worst region for freedom worldwide.
The annual Freedom Report ranks 195 countries by political rights and civil liberties, with scores assigned to each country via a complicated scoring system over the country's legal, judicial, and executive systems as well as current events.
In 2014, 89 were rated "free" (46% overall), 55 (28%) are "partly free," and 51 (26%) are "not free" - a sharp decline since 2013 which Freedom House noted is due not only to ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan's restrictions on internet freedom in Turkey and the extended Russia-Ukraine conflict. China has also centralized its government monitoring, it noted.
The report cites a number of factors for the overall decline, including a global shift toward authoritarian methods, a decline in internet freedom, and the cumulative effect of terrorism over years of conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The only two countries listed as "free" in the Middle East were Israel, which was joined for the first time by Tunisia. Syria, by contrast, had the lowest Freedom Index rating for any country in over ten years.
The "worst of the worst" for free and democratic countries included the Central African Republic (CAR), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Several countries moved backwards on its indexing scale, it added, naming Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Nigeria, Kenya, and Azerbaijan.