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Journal of Democracy 12.3 (2001) 189-192

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News and Notes

Egyptian Human Rights Activist Sentenced

On May 21, at the conclusion of a trial widely regarded as politically motivated, an Egyptian military court in Cairo sentenced human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim to seven years of imprisonment and hard labor on charges ranging from defaming Egypt's reputation abroad to accepting foreign funding without government permission. Ibrahim, who was arrested along with 27 co-defendants in July 2000 for his work as director of the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, has been an indefatigable advocate of democratic values for more than 25 years. His statement responding to the charges against him was published in the October 2000 issue of the Journal of Democracy under the title "A Reply to My Accusers." During his prolonged detention, Western governments and human rights groups criticized the Egyptian government for holding him.

The verdict can only be appealed before the Cassation court, Egypt's highest. During the appeals process, Ibrahim will be required to serve his sentence. While his lawyers proceed through the legal system, his supporters have formed the Ad Hoc Support Committee for the Ibn Khaldun Center to coordinate a campaign for his release. For more information, see

Human Rights Activists Look Back in Russia

On May 12-14, some 400 human rights activists, diplomats, and international visitors gathered in Moscow to attend the Moscow Helsinki Group's twenty-fifth anniversary conference. Five of the group's founding members participated in the conference, including Natan Sharansky, Yuri Orlov, and current president Ludmilla Alexeyeva, who has worked to revitalize the group since her return from exile in the United States in 1995. Looking back [End Page 189] at the state of human rights under Soviet rule, conference participants recognized the progress that has taken place over the last quarter-century and underscored the continuing importance of working to strengthen human rights in Russia. Founded by a few human rights advocates in May 1976 to monitor the Soviet govern-ment's compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords, the Moscow Helsinki Group continues to track the state of human rights in Russia today.

The Internet and Democracy

On April 27-28, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office sponsored a workshop at Wilton Park on "The Internet and Democracy Building," bringing together policy makers, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, specialists from the information-technology industry, and researchers to explore the ways in which the Internet and other advanced technologies can be used to promote democracy.Participants included Mahnaz Afkhami (Women's Learning Partnership); Tom Carothers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace); Peter Ferdinand (Centre for the Study of Democratisation, University of Warwick); Jeff Fischer (International Foundation for Election Systems); Carl Gershman (National Endowment for Democracy); Patrick Molutsi (International IDEA); Ayo Obe (Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria); Michael Pinto-Duschinsky (Brunel University); Livingstone Sewenyana (Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda); and Trefor Williams (Westminster Foundation for Democracy).

On April 30, Freedom House released a report concluding that Internet freedom exceeds press freedom in most countries, including some governed by authoritarian regimes. The report forms part of Freedom House's annual Survey of Press Freedom, a country-by-country analysis measuring levels of freedom of expression. The global survey examined 131 countries, of which 58 (44 percent) were considered to have the "least restrictive" access to the Internet, 55 (42 percent) were rated "moderately restrictive," and 18 (14 percent) were deemed "most restrictive." The report found that while there is a strong correlation overall between a free press and open Internet access, some of the most repressive and closed societies are relatively open regarding access to the Internet. The full text of the Survey of Press Freedom may be found online at

OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy

The 2001 OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy will be awarded posthumously to Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze and Spanish journalist José Luis López de Lacalle at the opening session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Paris on July 6-10. López de Lacalle is believed to have been...


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