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By Barry Schweid

1/13/11 Worldwide (AP) — Twenty-five countries showed significant declines in democracy in 2010 with little serious resistance from the democratic world, the watchdog group Freedom House reported Thursday.

It was the fifth consecutive year Freedom House has reported a decline in political rights and civil liberties worldwide. “Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence,” said David J. Kramer, executive director of the group. “And the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”

The report’s survey of 194 countries and 14 territories around the world found that China, Egypt, Iran, Russia and Venezuela continued to increase repressive measures with little significant resistance from democracies.

The number of electoral democracies dropped to 115, the lowest level since 1995, after reaching a high of 123 in 2005.

“The world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes acted with increased brazenness in 2010,” the report said. Among the examples cited were China pressuring foreign governments to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony honoring jailed democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo and Russia’s “blatant disregard” for judicial independence in sentencing former oil magnate Mikhail Khordokovsky after a trial widely considered fraudulent.

Among the countries Freedom House said had improved last year were Kyrgyzstan and Guinea, both of which moved from “not free” to “partly free” after holding comparatively free and fair elections.

The 25 countries listed as declining in their levels of freedom were Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burundi, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, Iran, Kuwait, Latvia, Madagascar, Mexico, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zambia.

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