Malta fell from 17th place to 33rd in the latest ranking by Washington-based Freedom House, which gauges democracy and liberty in 195 countries and 14 territories across the globe.

According to the latest Freedom House report, published Monday night, though considered free, Malta scored 92 points in the aggregate ranking out of 100, down four points (-4) from 96 in the previous study a year ago.

The countries faring worse than Malta were Gabon (-9), Tunisia (-8), Congo (-6), Tanzania (-6), Turkey (-6) and the Maldives (-5).

Although the specific country report with details about Malta has not been published yet, a spokeswoman for Freedom House described the drop as an accumulation of problems that emerged in recent years.

“The murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia made a big impact on Malta’s ranking, as this was of big concern to us,” she said. “However, there are many other factors accumulating over the past years which are having a negative impact on Malta’s reputation,” the spokeswoman added.

Among other issues, she mentioned the Individual Investment Programme, which facilitates the sale of Maltese passports, a lack of transparency in the application and implementation of the law on financing political parties, the influence of economic interest groups and individuals in national politics, corruption and the lack of transparency in public contracts.

The spokeswoman noted that in a small country like Malta, such issues could have a big impact on overall freedom.

Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s flagship annual report, assesses the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world.

The ranking has been published since 1973, allowing Freedom House – considered a world institution in the sector – to track global freedom trends. Freedom House promotes it as the most widely read and cited report of its kind, used regularly by policymakers, journalists, academics, activists and many others.

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It pointed out that, in general, this year’s report showed an overall decline in political rights and civil liberties around the world. Last year, rights deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade, extending a period characterised by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies and the United States’s withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom, Freedom House added.

With a perfect 100 score, Finland, Norway and Sweden top the league of the most free countries in the world, followed by Canada and Denmark. On the other side of the scale are North Korea, Eritrea and South Sudan.