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UK Downgraded to ‘Hostile and Authoritarian’ in Civic Freedoms Index

16 Mar 2023 13:19

Islam Times - The UK has been downgraded in an annual global index of civic freedoms as a result of the government’s “increasingly authoritarian” drive to impose restrictive and punitive laws on public protests.

The Civicus Monitor, which tracks the democratic and civic health of 197 countries across the world, said the UK government was creating a “hostile environment” towards campaigners, charities and other civil society bodies.

The UK’s willingness to clamp down on civic freedoms such as the right to peaceful assembly means it is now classified as “obstructed” – putting it alongside countries such as Poland, South Africa and Hungary.

“The downgrade reflects the worrying trends we are seeing in restrictions across civil society that are threatening our democracy. The government should be setting a positive example to countries that have clamped down on civic space,” said Stephanie Draper, the chief executive of the Bond charity, a partner in the Civicus collaboration.

She added: “The UK is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is among concerning company in the Civicus Monitor ratings as restrictive laws and dangerous rhetoric are creating a hostile environment towards civil society in the UK.”

Civicus is a collaboration between more than 20 civil society organizations around the world, providing an annual update of the global relative health of civil society. Countries are classified as: open; narrowed; obstructed; repressed; or closed. The UK has been downgraded from “narrowed” to “obstructed.”

Its latest annual report cites a number of restrictive laws introduced or proposed. These include the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act, which gives the police unprecedented power to restrict protests and marches, and the Public Order Bill, now going through parliament, which is aimed at curbing so-called guerrilla-style protests

But it is also concerned by what it sees as the UK government’s attempts to undermine human rights and its hostility towards charities and campaigners who actively oppose or speak out against its policies on climate change, anti-racism and refugee and asylum seeker rights.

The UK government’s increasingly hardline approach is reflected in a separate annual survey of charities by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation [SMK], which reveals widespread alarm at the extent of ministers perceived hostility to civil society and enthusiasm for cracking down on long-held freedoms to organize and protest.

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