TALLINN 's Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO that monitors freedom and democracy around the world, wrote in its latest annual survey that Estonia ranks among countries that provide maximum political rights and civil liberties to their citizens.
The survey, Freedom in the World 2005, gave Estonia a 1.0 rating 's the highest possible. The Baltic country was ranked together with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Latvia had a rating of 1.5, while Lithuania fared the worst among Balts at 2.0 and was placed alongside countries such as Argentina, Botswana, Israel and Mongolia. The presidential impeachment trial and the scandalous searches of political parties' headquarter by security services helped drag Lithuania down the scale.
The survey also downgraded Russia from the category of "partially free" countries to the category of "not free" and describes Belarus as the least free country in Europe.
According to the survey, 89 countries are "free" and have 2.8 billion inhabitants (44 percent of the world's population). Fifty-four countries representing 1.2 billion people (19 percent) are considered "partly free," while 49 countries are not. The 2.4 billion inhabitants (37 percent) of these latter countries 's three-fifths of whom live in China 's are denied most basic political rights and civil liberties.
The survey reflects political developments between Dec. 1, 2003 and Nov. 30, 2004.