Political coalitions and media policy : a study of Egyptian newspapers

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2014-08

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Sternfeld, Rachel Anne

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Abstract: This dissertation asks: Why do autocrats expand the freedoms enjoyed by their domestic media outlets when it would seem to be against their interests to do so? Some research suggests that private capital investments and other non-state sources of revenue are crucial to expanding the bounds of media discourse. I argue that private money alone cannot produce such developments, instead, increased press freedom can be observed when the economic reforms create the opportunity for a new class of entrepreneurs, interested in funding media ventures, to enter government. From this position they may push for opportunities to expand the media environment. Hosni Mubarak’s presidency in Egypt provides a useful lens to study changes in press freedom under autocracy. The introduction of private capital into the Egyptian newspaper industry in two recent decades resulted in different levels of press freedom. In the 1990s press freedom was unaffected by the influx of private money into this sector, but there was a marked increase in press freedom in the 2000s when a wave of new privately-owned dailies joined their state-owned counterparts on Egyptian newsstands. The introduction of economic reforms, especially privatization of state industries, created the opportunities for the expanded class of entrepreneurs to enter politics and the economic incentives to increase the freedom of the press. The dissertation expands our existing understandings of the political and economic context under which economic liberalizations can lead to political liberalizations. It suggests that political science can improve its understanding of these dynamics by considering individual political liberalizations, rather than just democratization, when seeking to understand the impact of economic reforms.

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