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Sunlight Disinfects? Free Media in Weak Democracies

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  • Leopoldo Fergusson
  • Juan F. Vargas
  • Mauricio A. Vela

Abstract

Free media may not favor political accountability when other democratic institutions are weak, and may even bring undesirable unintended consequences. We propose a simple model in which politicians running for office may engage in coercion to obtain votes. A media scandal that exposes these candidates increases their coercion effort to offset the negative popularity shock.This may result in the tainted politicians actually increasing their vote share. We provide empirical evidence from one recent episode in the political history of Colombia, the `parapolitics' scandal featuring politicians colluding with illegal armed paramilitary groups to obtain votes.We show that colluding candidates not only get more votes than their clean competitors, but also concentrate them in areas where coercion is more likely (namely, areas with more paramilitary presence, less state presence, and more judicial inefficiency). Harder to reconcile with other explanations and as a direct test of the effects of media exposure, we compare tainted candidates exposed before elections to those exposed after. We find that those exposed before elections get as many votes as those exposed once elected, but their electoral support is more strongly concentrated in places where coercion is more likely. Our results highlight the complementarity between different dimensions of democratic institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan F. Vargas & Mauricio A. Vela, 2013. "Sunlight Disinfects? Free Media in Weak Democracies," Documentos CEDE 10487, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:010487
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Economía (y Psicología) de la Productividad Laboral y los Subsidios al Desempleo
      by Juan F Vargas in Foco Económico on 2014-04-16 02:00:45
    2. Un Estado feliz
      by Blogoeconomia in La Silla Vacía on 2016-02-29 01:39:08
    3. El sol desinfecta, pero cuídese de la sombra
      by Guest blogger in Hacia el desarrollo efectivo on 2013-02-26 17:55:04
    4. Development that Works: Sunlight disinfects, but beware of the shade!
      by Guest blogger in Eval Central on 2013-02-26 17:55:33

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    Cited by:

    1. Piolatto, Amedeo & Schuett, Florian, 2015. "Media competition and electoral politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 80-93.
    2. Prem, Mounu & Saavedra, Santiago & Vargas, Juan F., 2020. "End-of-conflict deforestation: Evidence from Colombia’s peace agreement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    3. Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubin & Nelson A. Ruiz & Juan F. Vargas, 2021. "The Real Winner's Curse," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 65(1), pages 52-68, January.
    4. Ch, Rafael & Shapiro, Jacob & Steele, Abbey & Vargas, Juan F., 2018. "Endogenous Taxation in Ongoing Internal Conflict: The Case of Colombia," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 996-1015, November.
    5. Bandiera, Antonella, 2021. "Deliberate displacement during conflict: Evidence from Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Giuseppe De Feo & Giacomo Davide De Luca, 2020. "Weak States: Causes and Consequences of the Sicilian Mafia," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 87(2), pages 537-581.
    7. Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Konstantin Sonin, 2018. "Social Media and Corruption," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 150-174, January.
    8. Mounu Prem & Andrés F. Rivera & Dario A. Romero & Juan F. Vargas, 2018. "Killing Social Leaders for Territorial Control: The Unintended Consequences of Peace," Documentos de Trabajo 16385, Universidad del Rosario.
    9. repec:tiu:tiucen:2013072 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Leopoldo Fergusson, 2019. "Who wants violence? The political economy of conflict and state building in Colombia," Revista Cuadernos de Economia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, FCE, CID, vol. 38(78), pages 671-700, November.
    11. Buonanno, Paolo & Vargas, Juan F., 2019. "Inequality, crime, and the long run legacy of slavery," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 539-552.
    12. Horacio A Larreguy & John Marshall & James M SnyderJr, 2018. "Leveling the playing field: How campaign advertising can help non-dominant parties," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 16(6), pages 1812-1849.
    13. Piolatto, Amedeo & Schuett, Florian, 2015. "Media competition and electoral politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 80-93.
    14. Carreri, Maria, 2016. "Do Natural Resources Influence Who Comes to Power, and How?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11136, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Francesco Sobbrio, 2014. "The political economy of news media: theory, evidence and open issues," Chapters, in: Francesco Forte & Ram Mudambi & Pietro Maria Navarra (ed.), A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 13, pages 278-320, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    16. Víctor Saavedra & Andrés Felipe Soto & Miguel Ángel Carvajal, 2023. "Análisis de la Política de Financiación Electoral en Colombia," Informes de Investigación 20741, Fedesarrollo.
    17. Aparicio, Juan P. & Jetter, Michael, 2020. "Captivating News in Colombia," IZA Discussion Papers 13834, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    18. Aparicio, Juan P. & Jetter, Michael, 2022. "Captivating news: Media attention and FARC kidnappings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 202(C), pages 69-81.
    19. Leopoldo Fergusson & Tatiana Hiller & Ana Maria Ibañez, 2020. "Growth and inclusion trajectories of Colombian functional territories," Sobre México. Revista de Economía, Sobre México. Temas en economía, vol. 1(1), pages 79-125.
    20. Cortés, Darwin & Santamaría, Julieth & Vargas, Juan F., 2016. "Economic shocks and crime: Evidence from the crash of Ponzi schemes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 263-275.
    21. Dario José Salcedo Monroy, 2015. "Local Media: Expansion of Radio and Political Accountability. Evidence from Colombia," Documentos CEDE 12566, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
    22. Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos Molina & James A. Robinson & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Long Shadow of the Past: Political Economy of Regional Inequality in Colombia," Documentos CEDE 15445, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
    23. Vargas, Juan & Villaveces, Marta-Juanita, 2016. "Rural Property Tax Revenue in the Face of Economic Concentration and Political Competition: Evidence from Colombia," Research Department working papers 945, CAF Development Bank Of Latinamerica.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Media; Democracy; Elections; Colombia; Civil Conflict; Coercion.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State

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