Europe

Watchdog report: 'Breakdown of democracy' in Poland, Hungary

People demonstrate on the 20th anniversary of Poland's constitution in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The protest comes at a time that they and other poles fear the constitutional order in Poland is threatened by the country's populist government.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

People demonstrate on the 20th anniversary of Poland's constitution in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The protest comes at a time that they and other poles fear the constitutional order in Poland is threatened by the country's populist government.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)  (The Associated Press)

U.S.-based pro-democracy group Freedom House says a "spectacular breakdown of democracy" has been taking place in Poland and Hungary, two countries that stood as models of democratic change after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

The watchdog organization said in a report published Tuesday that Hungary now has its lowest democracy score in the Central European region and that Poland's score is falling. It cited an attack by populist leaders in both countries on constitutional courts and the system of checks and balances, as well as the transformation of public media into "propaganda arms."

In this year's "Nations in Transit" report, Freedom House said: "The spectacular breakdown of democracy in these countries should serve as a warning about the fragility of the institutions that are necessary for liberal democracy."