DP13189 | Media Freedom in the Shadow of a Coup

Publication Date

09/18/2018

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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 benefi t from an informed citizenry. Rulers tolerate freer press when citizens are pessimistic about them, or coups signal information about them to citizens.