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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Golos Receives Sakharov Freedom Award

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Golos, Russia’s largest independent election monitoring organization and a long-time NDI partner, has been awarded the 2012 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for its "outstanding efforts to promote democratic values through free and fair elections in Russia," according to a statement by Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.  Sakharov, a scientist, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union. 

“I congratulate Golos on receiving the Sakharov Freedom Award,” said NDI President Kenneth Wollack. “It is fitting that Golos be recognized for its remarkable efforts to promote the integrity of elections in Russia.”

Since 2000, Golos has been the pre-eminent domestic source for nonpartisan reporting on Russian elections.   Golos’ interactive map of electoral violations, launched for the December 2011 parliamentary elections, became an Internet sensation when it openly documented widespread cases of electoral fraud as reported by election observers from across the country.  Through this innovative use of crowdsourcing, Golos provided a unique opportunity for thousands of Russian citizens to take part in the political process.  With this public prominence, however, came unwanted attention from the Russian authorities, including calls from State Duma deputies to shutter the organization.

In response to the award, Grigory Melkonyants, deputy director of Golos, said, “In the past 12 years, Golos has received recognition not only from within Russia, but also in the international arena.  Golos consistently provides objective and independent assessments of elections in Russia, in defense of voters’ rights.  Despite growing pressure on the organization and its activists, Golos is committed to continuing its work with even greater intensity.”

The Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award was established in 1980 by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, with the full support of Andrei Sakharov.  The award aims to help people who, because of their opinions, beliefs or conscience, are persecuted or imprisoned.  Past laureates include: Evgeny Zhovtis and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law; Svetlana Gannushkina from the Memorial Human Rights Center in Russia; Ales Bialiatski from the Human Rights Center, "Viasna," in Belarus; and Sergei Kovalev from Russia.

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Published Sept. 14, 2012