[Politics] Media and Authoritarian Regime
Media has been a significant part of the ruling of authoritarian government today as the advanced development in technology. Authoritarian governments have encountered various questions and obstacles and they are finding different approaches to resolving such problems in order to stay in and strengthen their power. Numerous examples have been included in the class’s discussions, including the Cell Phone Revolution/Orange revolution in Ukraine and the Twitter/Facebook Revolution during Arab Spring.
One real-world example would be China. The Chinese government has utilized surveillance to control the type and amount of information its citizens can receive. Through the existence of “Great Firewall”, that would eventually hinder citizen’s freedom of speech. The government would also use online police as a means of censorship to detect any language or information that speak against the regime. Since 2001, the government has banned the connection to Facebook, Twitter, Google and recently even Instagram and replace them with Chinese versions where the government has contract agreement with the internet companies to monitor up-to-date messages, filter any “unlawful” information and extract data. This would discourage any group meetings that are eventually “destabilize” the society. Similarly, in Egypt’s revolution, the Egyptian government blocked the usage of Facebook and Twitter on Jan 26, 2011, and shut down Internet and cell phone access two days later to prevent the revolution spreading. Not to mention how in the first place, the Tunisian revolution only spread to Egypt via online videos and media coverage, eventually leading to Egyptians’ available heuristics on their revolution.
Information availability would inherently dangerous to autocrats; however, as MacKinnon has illustrated in his article, Chinese government has found a way to utilize the information and technology to help them to have a better control over its citizens. Logging to the government website will allow citizens to file complaints about infrastructure, local governmental service agencies etc, Although the effects of such complaints in most of the times are very limited, this still illustrates how an authoritarian government would use media and the Internet to their advantages and secure their position. Nevertheless, technology and media would still function as a place to disguise your identity and speak more freely in an authoritarian regime. For instance, the documentary “Ai Weiwei: never sorry” tells a story of how Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei fought against the Chinese authoritarian regime through his artwork and use of social media.
Media is largely controlled by the government for both state-owned or private. State-owned media, such as People’s Daily, a newspaper completely owned by the Chinese government, could be seen as the site for party’s propaganda. This type of newspaper provides direct information on the policies and opinions of the Chinese government. For example, during Cultural Revolution, this media was the only source for the outsider to understand the attitudes of the Communist Party. One should also note that sometimes the placement is more important than the content — a heavy length story reporting a political figure usually implies the uprising of the figure in future China politics. Other private media has more freedom to choose which news to report and which story to tell; however, there is still strict censorship regarding the information transmitted to the people.
Thus, it is commonly believed that media and technology have an insurmountable power to communicate and exchange information in a much more efficient and effective way compared with the past. This poses a threat that could not be overlooked by the authoritarian ruling.