01/16/2013 11:19 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

Freedom In The World 2013: Freedom House Ranks The Best And Worst Countries On Liberty

Less than half of the countries in the world were "free" in 2012, according to the staggering conclusions of the newest report by Freedom House on the state of global freedom.

In its annual report on political freedom and civil liberties, Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization, classifies only 90 out 195 countries as having been "free" in 2012, three more than the previous year. Despite the incremental shift, however, the organization's general conclusion is anything but positive. Twenty-seven countries in the world declined in freedom rankings, while only 16 made positive gains.

This is the seventh consecutive year that Freedom in the World has shown more declines than gains worldwide. Furthermore, the report data reflected a stepped-up campaign of persecution by dictators that specifically targeted civil society organizations and independent media.

One of the biggest winners this year was Libya, Freedom House writes, as for many years the Gaddafi-ruled nation dwindled at the bottom of the index. With the tyrant dead and gone, Libya is now considered "partly free," marking one of the most substantial one-year improvements in the report’s history.

The most significant drop comes in Mali, where French troops are currently fighting Islamist militants. "Mali suffered one of the greatest single-year declines in the history of Freedom in the World, dropping precipitously from Free to Not Free," the report writes.

Nine countries and two territories received Freedom House's lowest ranking for both political rights and civil liberties. In these regions, despots reign, corrupt governments betray their people and wars leave citizens at odds with their homelands.

Which countries ranked the lowest of the low? Find out in the slideshow below.

World's Worst Countries For Liberty