Many political scientists focus predominantly on the existence of competitive elections to classify whether countries are or are not democracies, says political scientist Elizabeth Stein, the inaugural Mark Helmke Postdoctoral Scholar on Global Media, Development and Democracy, sponsored by Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies and the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance.
This is a minimalist approach that uses the election standard as the sole requisite to classify regimes as democratic, she tells CIMA in an interview:
But how long can a country sustain a democracy without free and independent media? It’s hard to imagine that elections can remain truly free, fair, and competitive when special interests have captured the media, the government intimidates journalists and independent news organizations, or where the state has assumed control of major media outlets. Particularly between elections, I think the media along with civil society are the primary actors who hold leaders accountable so that they continue to govern in the people’s interest. I think a free and independent media environment is essential to sustaining liberal democracy. Unfortunately, democracy has not proven sufficient to preserve the freedom and independence of the media.
Panelists: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; Lee Feinstein, dean of Indiana University; Jeanne Bourgault, president and CEO of Internews; Paul Helmke, professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs; Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists; Elizabeth Stein, visiting assistant professor at Indiana University; Dana Priest, chair of public affairs journalism at the University of Maryland; and NED president of Carl Gershman.
“As CIMA marks its 10th anniversary, it is very meaningful to honor someone so integral to its establishment, Mark Helmke,” said NED President Carl Gershman. “The Helmke Scholarship and NED’s new relationship with Indiana University will further enrich and extend the important work CIMA has been pursuing with great success in the field of media development. This partnership comes at a critical time when we need to develop deeper understandings of the role that media play in building and sustaining democratic systems.”