PARGC Panel - Bypassing or Manipulating Democracy: Media Control and Resistance in China, Russia, and Turkey

PARGC panel discussion featuring Jaclyn Kerr, Maria Repnikova and Bilge Yesil
12 Feb 2015 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
Open to the Public


In the past years, different forms of non-democratic rule have expanded, associated with revamped attempts at controlling the media. New mechanisms, including legislative, commercial and technological tools have been used to contain, co-opt and silence critical voices. At the same time, bottom-up pursuits of pushing the boundaries of the permissible and redefining the space for creative critical discourse have intensified, with outspoken journalists and netizens creating new platforms to bypass complex political restrictions. This panel presents a unique discussion on how this cat and mouse game works across non-democratic contexts: in Russia, China, and Turkey. These cases present different degrees of separation from democracy, with China being the furthest, categorized as a full authoritarian regime, Turkey being in between an illiberal democracy and competitive authoritarianism, and Russia positioned in the middle of China and Turkey. Beyond illuminating the specific dynamics of each case, the panel will engage in drawing the parallels and distinctions in control and resistance mechanisms across the three cases. It will further explore and reflect on the recent tendencies of cross-authoritarian diffusion of information management, illustrating how the three regimes and the critical journalists in them may be learning from one another and what that means for our understanding of media in non-democratic contexts. 

About the speakers:

Jaclyn Kerr is an expert on Russian politics and Internet governance in authoritarian regimes. Her research, focused particularly on Russia and the former Soviet region, examines how authoritarian and hybrid regimes manage the Internet in attempts to bypass its potentially destabilizing influence, and how societal actors use information technology to mobilize against the regime. She is a doctoral candidate in government at Georgetown University and a Cybersecurity Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.   In 2013-2014, she was a research fellow at the Center for the Study of New Media and Society at the New Economic School in Moscow, while conducting extensive field research concerning Russian Internet policy and its effects.  Ms. Kerr has worked as a research assistant at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, has been an IREX EPS Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, a Research Fellow at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, an IREX YLF Fellow in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and has previous professional experience as a software engineer.  She holds a BAS in Mathematics and Slavic Studies, and an MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University. 

Maria Repnikova is the 2014-2015 PARGC Postdoctoral Fellow. Maria holds a PhD (DPhil) in political science from University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar and a Wai Seng Senior Scholar. Her current research focuses on state-media relations in China, drawing some comparisons to Russia and the Soviet Union. In the past, she has researched Chinese migration to Russia as a Fulbright Scholar, and the political aspects of China's journalism education for her master's dissertation. Her work appeared in academic publications, as well as in media outlets, including Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera English, and Russia's Vedomosti. Maria also has professional experience in the media and communications sector as the Overseas Press Club fellow for Reuters agency in Beijing, and an intern for Google communications team in London and Moscow. She speaks fluent Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. As a PARGC fellow, Maria will be reworking her doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript, as well as examining China’s evolving approaches to crisis communication and comparing the media environment in China and Russia in more detail. She tweets at @MariaRepnikova.

Bilge Yesil is Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. She is the author of Video Surveillance: Power and Privacy in Everyday Life (2009) and the upcoming The Turkish Model? Media, Democracy and the Neoliberal Islamist State. She writes about Internet regulation, surveillance, censorship and mediated activism in Turkey.

Co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Lunch is first-come, first-served beginning at 11:45 am. Colloquium begins at 12:00 pm. Space is limited, please RSVP to

Featured Photo Credit: some rights reserved by IsaacMao.

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