IEDA marks Bangladesh as authoritarian regime 

The DSA targets online content under the guise of fighting disinformation and protecting infrastructure against cyberattacks, it said

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) has marked Bangladesh as an authoritarian regime and said the people here are facing restrictions on the freedom of expression. 

The Sweden-based think tank made the disclosure in a report, titled “The Global State of Democracy 2022”, on Wednesday.

Apart from Bangladesh, the report included China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan to the category of authoritarian regime. 

Referring to the Digital Security Act in Bangladesh, the IEDEA said it targets online content under the guise of fighting disinformation and protecting infrastructure against cyberattacks.

At least 15 countries of Asia and the Pacific region have approved such measures that restrict freedom of expression, especially online, since 2018. 

The IDEA further said democracy is receding in the region, while authoritarianism solidifies. Only 54 per cent of people here live in a democracy, and almost 85 per cent of those live in one that is weak or backsliding. 

In the last five years, approximately 60 per cent of the 35 countries in the region, including half of the democracies, have suffered significant decreases in at least one sub attribute. 

Although the most dramatic examples of breakdown have been in Afghanistan and Myanmar, even more longstanding and stable democratic systems in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan are at risk, it added. 

IDEA report.

The watchdog specially mentioned the issue of freedom of expression and said although erosion has taken place in all aspects of democracy, the impact on freedom of expression and media Integrity is striking. 

Some 35 per cent of democracies in Asia and the Pacific and 33 per cent of non-democracies have experienced erosion in either freedom of expression or media integrity over the last five years. 

On the whole, half of the world's democratic countries are experiencing an erosion of democracy, intensified by war in Ukraine and economic crisis.

The number of democracies with the most severe democratic erosion -- a group dubbed "backsliding" countries which has included the United States since last year -- increased from six to seven in 2022 with the addition of El Salvador to the list.

The others are Brazil, Hungary, India, Mauritius and Poland.

In a conversation with news agency AFP, IDEA secretary-general Kevin Casas-Zamora said, "We're seeing extraordinarily severe headwinds for democracy now, intensified by the political fallout from the economic crisis that started with the pandemic and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine".

"It might be that the credibility of elections is challenged. It might be that the rule of law is under assault. It might be that civic space is being constrained", he explained, adding "I'm very concerned by what we're seeing in the United States".