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Media freedom and the escalation of state violence

Mitchell, N; Carey, S; Gonzalez, B; (2021) Media freedom and the escalation of state violence. Political Studies 10.1177/00323217211020243. (In press). Green open access

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When governments face severe political violence, they regularly respond with violence. Yet not all governments escalate repression under such circumstances. We argue that to understand the escalation of state violence, we need to pay attention to the potential costs leaders might face in doing so. We expect that the decision to escalate state violence is conditional on being faced with heightened threats and on possessing an information advantage that mitigates the expected cost of increasing state violence. In an environment where media freedom is constrained, leaders can deny or reframe an escalation of violations and so expect to reduce potential domestic and international costs attached to that decision. Using a global dataset from 1981 to 2006, we show that state violence is likely to escalate in response to increasing violent threats to the state when media freedom is curtailed – but not when the media are free from state intervention. A media environment that the government knows is free to sound the alarm is associated with higher political costs of repression and effectively reduces the risk of escalating state violence, even in the face of mounting armed threats.

Type: Article
Title: Media freedom and the escalation of state violence
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/00323217211020243
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/00323217211020243
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Lficense (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127547
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