The press in the US is under permanent attack by President Donald Trump. But the press is also under fierce attack by presidents and other elected officials in many deeply polarized countries, including Russia, Hungary, Venezuela, and Mexico. Whether through smear campaigns, strict regulation, or physical attacks, including abduction and murder, journalists who publicly expose illegal actions by government officials in a wide variety of democratic, semi-democratic, and undemocratic countries have become targets of aggression – covert or overt, lethal or non-lethal. This dialogue invites social movement scholars and journalists to consider attacks on the press as a case of state repression. While the nature and mechanics of these attacks might be different across countries and political regimes, this dialogue strives to find similarities among uncommon cases.
Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.
Lance Bennett, University of Washington & Steven Livingston, George Washington University (essay)
Katherine Corcoran, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona (essay)
Anita Gohdes, University of Zurich (essay)
Samuel A. Greene, King’s College London (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
Researchers interested in repression have historically seen repression as something independent from regime type (even if certain kinds of regimes may be more likely to repress), something that is costly and hence scarce (creating important allocation decisions for states where they decide who to repress, how much, and how often), and something that primarily has impacts on extra-institutional action. In other words, while non-democratic states may be more likely to repress movements, democratic states also engage in repression. Also, even non-democratic states don’t necessarily repress all extra-institutional engagement because they cannot afford to, they fear backfire if they tried, or they simply don’t see a need to. Moreover, there are many things that create political opportunities for protest (or limit them) and repression is only one element in the larger political environment. Indeed, even in states that are very antagonistic to protest (e.g., China), repression is still selective. Continue reading
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been alarming the public for the past few years: journalists are being killed in increasing numbers and the vast majority of perpetrators continue to go unpunished. Why are journalists killed, and how can we understand the political context in which these egregious murders occur? For the past three years, Sabine Carey and I have been collecting information on the characteristics of journalist killings across the world. In particular, we are interested in understanding how journalist killings fit into more general politics. Here I will highlight two main insights the data has provided: 1) The killing of journalists is a manifestation of localized repression, and 2) that most journalists are killed in democratic countries with low levels of judicial accountability. Continue reading
In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, scholars began to see the outlines of an emerging phenomenon, something Fareed Zakaria at the time called “illiberal regimes.” Others would later refer to hybrid governance to describe elected governments that, once in office, use their authority to systematically undermine institutions of democratic governance. To illustrate the idea, political scientist David Ost points to the Hungarian and Polish cases where the constitutional courts have been gutted, civil service politicized, and news media turned into a “government mouthpiece.” Also evident is an “official tolerance and even promotion of racism and bigotry, administrative assertion of traditional gender norms, cultural resurrection of authoritarian traditions, placing loyalty over competence in awarding state posts.” In other cases, authoritarians turn to violent repression. In the immediate aftermath of the failed 2016 coup in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government arrested over 70,000 people, including 2,385 judges and scores of university professors and journalists. Erdoğan also shuttered 370 civil society groups. Similarly, India, Spain and Hungary have enacted laws restricting civil society actions. In Hungary this year, President Viktor Orban government introduced a bill in Parliament that would all but abolish the Central European University. Continue reading
With all due respect to Marshall McLuhan, he may have got it backwards. In Russia, at least, the message has become the medium.
By most measures, there has probably never been a worse time in the quarter century of Russia’s post-Soviet history to be a journalist. If there are fewer murders of journalists than there used to be – five since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, versus 36 between 2000 and 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists – it is mostly because the point has been made. Despite Putin’s vaunted claims of a return to law and order after the turmoil of the 1990s, journalists who opposed the government or its powerful friends could still end up dead; that was as true for reporters like Anna Politkovskaya, who reported for the popular weekly Novaya Gazeta on abuses at the very highest levels of power until she was shot in her apartment building in 2006, as it was for editors like Mikhail Beketov, whose small-circulation Khimkinskaya Pravda stopped reporting on corrupt dealings in suburban highway construction after he died of injuries from a 2008 beating. For those who forgot, violence has never been very far away. Oleg Kashin was beaten to within an inch of his life for reporting on the activities of a regional governor in 2010 and now lives abroad; the crusading radio commentator Yulia Latynina fled the country in July, after her home and car were attacked and her elderly parents threatened. Lev Shlosberg soldiers on, after having been severely beaten in 2014 while investigating the unmarked graves of Russian servicemen returning from a secret war in eastern Ukraine. Continue reading