How autocrats manipulate economic news: Evidence from Russia’s state-controlled television

Arturas Rozenas, Denis Stukal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Conventional wisdom says that autocrats manipulate news through censorship. But when it comes to economic affairs—a highly sensitive topic for modern autocrats—the government’s ability to censor information effectively is limited, because citizens can benchmark the official news against their incomes, market prices, and other observables. We propose that instead of censoring economic facts, the media tactically frames those facts to make the government appear as a competent manager. Using a corpus of daily news reports from Russia’s largest state-owned television network, we document extensive evidence supporting this prediction. Bad news is not censored, but it is systematically blamed on external factors, whereas good news is systematically attributed to domestic politicians. Such selective attribution is used more intensely in politically sensitive times (elections and protests) and when the leadership is already enjoying high popular support—consistent with the existing theories of information manipulation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)982-996
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Volume81
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'How autocrats manipulate economic news: Evidence from Russia’s state-controlled television'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this