Are Most Journalists Killed in Democracies?
Previous research (Carey and Gohdes, 2021) concludes most journalist killings by the state occur in democracies. This paper investigates the link between regime type and journalist killings and argues that democracies are not more hostile to journalists than autocracies. In fact, liberal democratic regimes are the safest of regimes for journalists, i.e. those with by far the least number of journalist killings by the state between 2002 and 2016.
Three arguments explain these different results: first, democracies are no homogeneous whole. Second, a reporting bias of journalist killings skews the distribution of cases towards the democratic side. Third, focusing on killings that do not occur in conflict settings disregards the connection between democracy and peace.
Failure to account for these biases as well as perpetuating a non-differentiated image of democracy as a theoretical “whole” is dangerous at a time where autocrats such as Victor Orban advertise the idea of illiberal democracy – an oxymoron.
Vanessa Boese is a Research Fellow of the Research Unit Transformations of Democracy.
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