Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Mark Ungar

Committee Members

Kenneth Erickson

Till Weber

Bilge Yesil

Jeremy Porter

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Social Influence and Political Communication


electoral politics, violence, media freedom, democracy, Latin American politics


Democratization theories assume that democracy and media freedom go hand in hand. However, in democracies, politicians and individuals who have a stake in political battles often attack journalists. How can political and electoral incentives that are at the heart of democracy create a minefield for journalists? Examining cross-national patterns of censorship and the experiences of journalists in Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil captured in over 4,600 case narratives, 30 field interviews, and historical documents, I study the circumstances under which political rivalries result in anti-media violence. I show that state and non-state actors are more likely to target journalists as a strategy to advance their electoral and political agendas in contexts where (1) levels of electoral competition are heightened, and (2) historical and institutional practices normalize and perpetuate restrictions on media freedom and violence against journalists. The studies presented here show not only that electoral competition increases the incidence of restrictions on media freedom, but that the logic behind electorally motivated restrictions on media freedom is context specific and heterogeneous.