Freedom House's annual "Freedom in the World" survey is out:
Political and personal freedom increased in 25 countries in 2003, including Argentina, Burundi, Kenya and Yemen… The survey designated 46 percent of the world's countries "free" in 2003, compared with 29 percent 30 years ago, when Freedom House first started conducting the surveys. One-quarter of the surveyed nations were designated "not free," compared with 43 percent in 1973.
From the report:
In all but the few worst cases, even highly repressive Not Free countries have been unable to rob their people completely and lastingly of all civil liberties and political rights. Out of 109 countries that have been rated Not Free in the history of the survey, only 13 (or 12 percent) have sustained in every year the high levels of political control and repression represented by the Not Free rating. These 13 countries are Burma, Chad, China, Congo (Kinshasa), Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Vietnam. This suggests that, over time, even the most repressive rulers find themselves hard-pressed to succeed at constantly suppressing their citizens? desires for a broad array of political rights and civil liberties.
But the Middle East remains the least free region in the world (94 perecent of the countries there are classified as not free or partly free).
The survey found declines in freedom in 13 countries including Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, and the Dominican Republic.