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Trump fueling decline of democracy: Freedom House

US President Donald Trump and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev (L) shake hands as they speak to the press at the White House on January 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The first year of US President Donald Trump's presidency has seen an increase in an ongoing trend of democratic decline in the US and around the world, mainly due to Trump's attacks on the press and his administration’s brash foreign policy approach.

“Democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America’s democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace,” according to a report released on Tuesday by Freedom House, a non-partisan think tank in Washington.

Erosion of US democracy

The new report shows that the Trump administration has facilitated the erosion of American democratic standards and contributed to the decline of global freedom.

While Freedom House has tracked a slow trend of declining democracy in the US over the last seven years, that decline accelerated in 2017 due to "growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, violations of basic ethical standards by the new administration, and a reduction in government transparency."

Freedom House also warned that the administration's combative media tactics could ultimately weaken the country’s press and judiciary -- a result that would carry significant implications for US democracy and America's standing in the world.

"The core institutions of American democracy are being battered by an administration that has treated the country's traditional checks and balances with disdain," said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, a Trump critic, said the report highlighted how Trump has undermined America's ability to demand that other countries improve their records on rights and freedoms. She said foreign leaders who come under US criticism often look for opportunities to cry hypocrisy.

"We have been left open to not being a great example when our president is praising people who are taking authoritarian measures," Albright said.

Global decline in democracy

The report finds that 2017 was the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2017, with only 35 registering gains.

Once-promising states such as Turkey, Venezuela, Poland, and Tunisia were among those experiencing declines in democratic standards. The recent democratic opening in Myanmar was permanently damaged by a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

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