Media Freedom in the Shadow of a Coup

28 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2018

See all articles by Raphael Boleslavsky

Raphael Boleslavsky

University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics

Mehdi Shadmehr

University of Chicago Harris School; University of Calgary - Department of Economics

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Date Written: September 17, 2018

Abstract

Popular protests and palace coups are the two domestic threats to dictators. We show that free media, which informs citizens about their rulers, is a double-edged sword that alleviates one threat, but exacerbates the other. Informed citizens may protest against a ruler, but they may also protest to restore him after a palace coup. In choosing media freedom, the leader trades off these conflicting effects. We develop a model in which citizens engage in a regime change global game, and media freedom is a ruler’s instrument for Bayesian persuasion, used to manage the competing risks of coups and protests. A coup switches the status quo from being in the ruler’s favor to being against him. This introduces convexities in the ruler’s Bayesian persuasion problem, causing him to benefit from an informed citizenry. Rulers tolerate freer press when citizens are pessimistic about them, or coups signal information about them to citizens.

Keywords: authoritarian politics, media freedom, protest, coup, global games, Bayesian persuasion, signaling

JEL Classification: D74, D82

Suggested Citation

Boleslavsky, Raphael and Shadmehr, Mehdi and Sonin, Konstantin, Media Freedom in the Shadow of a Coup (September 17, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3251019 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3251019

Raphael Boleslavsky

University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 248126
Coral Gables, FL 33124-6550
United States

Mehdi Shadmehr

University of Chicago Harris School ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of Calgary - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
2500 University Drive N.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://moya.bus.miami.edu/~mshadmehr/index.html

Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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