(TIME) Governments around the world are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict freedoms, punish independent news operations and attack minorities, according to a global survey by Freedom House, the U.S.-based nonprofit known for its annual assessment of global democracy.
The report, published Friday, found that 91 countries have imposed new controls on news media because of the pandemic, and at least 72 have restricted free speech or criticism of the government. The measures extend from countries rated as “Free,” such as India, to those judged “Partly Free,” like the Philippines, to the “Not Free,” including China, Russia and Venezuela.
All told, clampdowns have weakened democracy in 80 countries, accelerating a 14-year decline in freedom as measured by the group’s annual survey.
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