Good news for freedom...
Gee, freedom really is on the march.
The number of democracies around the world has reached a record level, while there have been important improvements in civil liberties in the Middle East since last year, an international monitoring group said yesterday.
An annual report issued by Freedom House, a pro-democracy organisation, found that the number of electoral democracies had increased in the past year from 119 to 122. The new entries, all in Africa, are Burundi, Liberia and the Central African Republic.
Freedom House described 2005 as "one of the most successful years for freedom" since it started "measuring" political freedoms in 1972. Countries rated as "not free" declined from 49 to 45, the lowest in a decade.
The Middle East lags behind with 11 out of 18 countries ranked as "not free" and only Israel ranking as "free". But Freedom House said the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon raised its status from "not free" to "partly free".
It also noted elections held in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, the introduction of women's voting rights in Kuwait and cautious liberalisation in Saudi Arabia.