Bypassing or Manipulating Democracy: Media Control and Resistance in China, Russia, and Turkey

In the past years, different forms of non-democratic rule have expanded, associated with revamped attempts at controlling the media. New mechanisms, including legislative, commercial and technological tools have been used to contain, co-opt and silence critical voices. At the same time, bottom-up pursuits of pushing the boundaries of the permissible and redefining the space for creative critical discourse have intensified, with outspoken journalists and netizens creating new platforms to bypass complex political restrictions. This panel presents a unique discussion on how this cat and mouse game works across non-democratic contexts: in Russia, China, and Turkey. These cases present different degrees of separation from democracy, with China being the furthest, categorized as a full authoritarian regime, Turkey being in between an illiberal democracy and competitive authoritarianism, and Russia positioned in the middle of China and Turkey. Beyond illuminating the specific dynamics of each case, the panel will engage in drawing the parallels and distinctions in control and resistance mechanisms across the three cases. It will further explore and reflect on the recent tendencies of cross-authoritarian diffusion of information management, illustrating how the three regimes and the critical journalists in them may be learning from one another and what that means for our understanding of media in non-democratic contexts. Watch Jaclyn Kerr's discussion of the Russian case.