This article is also available on the journal website.
The euphoria of democratic openings must inevitably confront the realities of creating functional democratic systems - a phenomenon vividly on display in recent years in the Arab World. Setbacks are common. The toppling of an autocratic leader does not automatically mean the rise of democracy. Elections do not guarantee the protection of civil liberties. Journalists and civil society actors often face restrictive and dangerous environments that limit their ability to gather and disseminate the independent information on which participatory democracy depends. And democratic leaders are not immune from the seductions of power and the incentives of dismantling democracy’s institutional checks and balances. The costs to a society and the international community for democratic reversals are high in terms of civil liberties, human rights, human development, and political instability. Strengthening international legal instruments including mechanisms to enhance accountability for violence against journalists and proscribe the subversion of democratic institutions as a Crime against Democracy can help overcome these conundrums.