The Journal of Politics


Assaults on the Fourth Estate: Explaining Media Harassment in Africa

Peter VonDoeppa1 and Daniel J. Younga2

a1 University of Vermont

a2 Georgia State University


A common threat to democratic politics in developing countries is state interference with the independent media. Despite the importance of this, we know very little about when and why governments attack the media. In this study we explain media harassment in Africa with a theory focusing on varying government incentives to control information over time. We propose that media harassment will increase when governments face threats to maintaining power or undertake extraordinary efforts to consolidate power. Leveraging an original dataset that covers 15 years and 23 countries, our findings offer support for this. Media harassment increases when governments are faced with major protests, coup plots, and conflict onsets and when they are seeking to amend constitutions in ways that increase or extend their power.


  Peter VonDoepp is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405.

Daniel J. Young is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303.