Think Tank Tracker, By İsa Afa­can

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - İSA AFA­CAN

The evo­lu­tion of mod­ern sov­er­eign states since the mid17th cen­tury has largely taken the form of the cen­tral­iza­tion of state power and the in­creased con­trol of bor­ders. As this process has con­tin­ued, mod­ern states have de­vel­oped so­phis­ti­cated ways to col­lect taxes, have cre­ated more ef­fi­cient war ap­pa­ra­tuses and have es­tab­lished fair, pub­lic-or­der based on the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Le­viathan’s mo­nop­oly on the use of vi­o­lence Even though the lib­eral per­spec­tive of bal­anc­ing over­bear­ing states’ role against in­di­vid­ual rights de­vel­oped in the 19th cen­tury, the dis­pute be­tween states’ ob­ses­sion with pub­lic or­der and in­di­vid­ual rights still rages on. Whether demo­cratic or au­to­cratic, what­ever the na­ture of the gov­er­nance, when it comes to state vs. in­di­vid­ual rights, the state of­ten wins. Free­dom of speech and press is one such con­tested area, with states tend­ing to limit in­di­vid­u­als’ right to speech and press.

Moisés Naím and Philip Ben­nett have con­sid­ered the ques­tion of how states re­act to dis­rup­tive changes in the me­dia land­scape, such as the mush­room­ing of dig­i­tal me­dia, and its ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the ques­tion of free­dom of speech and press. For them, state­ments that so­cial me­dia out­lets such as Twit­ter, YouTube and Face­book shift power from gov­ern­ments to in­di­vid­u­als are rather pre­ma­ture, be­cause gov­ern­ments around the world are adapt­ing to the age of new me­dia and are de­vel­op­ing strate­gies and tech­nolo­gies to counter the lev­el­ing ef­fects of this trend. There­fore, “the in­ter­net’s prom­ise of open ac­cess to in­de­pen­dent and di­verse sources of in­for­ma­tion is a re­al­ity mostly for the mi­nor­ity of hu­man­ity liv­ing in ma­ture democ­ra­cies.” The au­thors con­tend that tra­di­tional cen­sor­ship in­volved “cut and paste,” while mod­ern cen­sor­ship means “fil­ter­ing, block­ing and hack­ing.” Hun­gary, for ex­am­ple, ap­plies fines, pro­hib­i­tive taxes and the with­drawal of li­censes to bur­den crit­i­cal me­dia and “steers state ad­ver­tis­ing to friendly out­lets.” Pak­istan sus­pended the li­cense of one of the most pop­u­lar TV chan­nels in the coun­try due to its crit­i­cal cov­er­age of the govern­ment, and sim­i­lar pres­sure is com­mon­place in Rus­sia and Turkey, the au­thors claim.

Naím and Ben­nett fo­cus on China and Venezuela, and il­lus­trate how th­ese two coun­tries em­ploy var­i­ous meth­ods of cen­sor­ship and sup­pres­sion to sti­fle both tra­di­tional and dig­i­tal crit­i­cal me­dia. They ar­gue that China uses “stealth strate­gies,” in ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional meth­ods, to con­ceal the state’s in­ter­fer­ence by “cre­at­ing en­ti­ties that look like pri­vate com­pa­nies, or gov­ern­men­tor­ga­nized, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, known as GONGOS.” By es­tab­lish­ing pri­vately owned govern­ment me­dia com­pa­nies, dis­sent can be con­tained and even de­fused through hid­den con­trol and ma­nip­u­la­tion. In Venezuela, the so­cial­ist state coun­ters crit­i­cal me­dia out­lets such as Úl­ti­mas Noti­cias and El Uni­ver­sal by buy­ing out them through its loyal busi­ness func­tionar­ies. For ex­am­ple, the new pa­tron­age at the Úl­ti­mas Noti­cias

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