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Why Resource-Poor Dictators Allow Freer Media: A Theory and Evidence from Panel Data, American Political Science Review


Every dictator dislikes free media. Yet, many non-democratic countries have partially free or almost free media. In this paper, we develop a theory of media freedom in dictatorships and provide systematic statistical evidence in support of this theory. In our model, free media allow a dictator to provide incentives to bureaucrats and therefore to improve the quality of government. The importance of this benefit varies with the natural-resource endowment. In resource-rich countries, bureaucratic incentives are less important for the dictator; hence, media freedom is less likely to emerge. Using panel data, we show that controlling for country fixed effects, media are less free in oil-rich economies, with the effect especially pronounced in non-democratic regimes. These results are robust to model specification and the inclusion of various controls, including economic development, democracy, country size, size of government, and others.




Georgy Egorov, Sergei Guriev, Konstantin Sonin

Date Published



Egorov, Georgy, Sergei Guriev, and Konstantin Sonin. 2009. Why Resource-Poor Dictators Allow Freer Media: A Theory and Evidence from Panel Data. American Political Science Review.(4): 645-668.


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