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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 candidates running for office may engage in coercion to obtain votes. A media scandal exposing these candidates entices them to increase their coercion effort to offset the negative shock on their popularity, potentially minimizing or even counteracting the effect of the scandal on their vote share. We provide empirical evidence from one recent episode in the political history of Colombia in which politicians seeking a seat in Congress colluded with illegal armed paramilitary groups to obtain votes, and this collusion was ultimately brought to light by a media scandal. We find that paramilitary-backed candidates exposed before elections get as many votes as those exposed after elections, but their electoral support is more strongly concentrated where coercion is cheaper: in areas with paramilitary presence and weak state capacity. Our results highlight the complementarity between different dimensions of democratic institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan F. Vargas & Mauricio A. Vela, 2018. "Sunlight Disinfects? Free Media in Weak Democracies," Documentos de Trabajo LACEA 016174, The Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association - LACEA.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000518:016174
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    15. Leopoldo Fergusson & James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik & Juan F. Vargas, 2016. "The Need for Enemies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1018-1054, June.
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    Citations

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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. 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.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:112:y:2018:i:04:p:996-1015_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Acemoglu, Daron & De Feo, Giuseppe & De Luca, Giacomo, 2017. "Weak States: Causes and Consequences of the Sicilian Mafia," CEPR Discussion Papers 12530, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Mounu Prem & Andrés Rivera & Darío Romero & Juan F. Vargas, 2018. "Killing social leaders for territorial control: the unintended consequences of peace," Documentos de Trabajo LACEA 017020, The Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association - LACEA.
    6. 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.
    7. 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 015445, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    8. Leopoldo Fergusson & Tatiana Hiller & Ana María Ibáñez, 2018. "Growth and inclusion trajectories of Colombian functional territories," Documentos CEDE 016947, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    9. Piolatto, Amedeo & Schuett, Florian, 2015. "Media competition and electoral politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 80-93.
    10. Dario José Salcedo Monroy, 2015. "Local Media: Expansion of Radio and Political Accountability. Evidence from Colombia," Documentos CEDE 012566, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    11. Horacio A. Larreguy & John Marshall & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2016. "Leveling the Playing Field: How Campaign Advertising Can Help Non-Dominant Parties," NBER Working Papers 22949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Shapiro, Jacob & Steele, Abbey & Vargas, Juan, 2014. "Endogenous Taxation in Ongoing Internal Conflict: The Case of Colombia," Research Department working papers 763, CAF Development Bank Of Latinamerica.
    13. Carreri, Maria & Dube, Oeindrila, 2016. "Do Natural Resources Influence Who Comes to Power, and How?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11136, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. 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.
    15. repec:tiu:tiucen:2013072 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Francesco Sobbrio, 2014. "The political economy of news media: theory, evidence and open issues," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 13, pages 278-320 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    17. Leopoldo Fergusson, 2017. "Who wants violence? The political economy of conflict and state building in Colombia," Documentos CEDE 015890, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    18. Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubín & Nelson A. Ruiz & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Real Winner's Curse," Documentos CEDE 015279, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Media; Democracy; Elections; Colombia; Civil Conflict; Coercion;

    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 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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