Think Tank Tracker, By 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