Recognizing and countering authoritarian resurgence


A new book is warning of an authoritarian surge around the world led by China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, who are using sophisticated methods to silence dissent and manipulate domestic media, RFE/RL reports.

The book, Authoritarianism Goes Global: The Challenge to Democracy, released by the National Endowment for Democracy and written by a number of prominent scholars, said the so-called “Big Five” are also increasingly trying project influence beyond their borders through media outlets such as Russia’s RT, China’s CCTV and Iran’s English-language Press TV.

“Each [country] enjoys a global reach and projects messages that seek to undermine Western and U.S. prestige while shaping attitudes toward democracy,” according to the book. “These regimes and their surrogates are increasingly seeking to insinuate themselves into the democratic political space with the goal of influencing – whether openly or furtively – the political dynamics of countries in one world region after another,” the book said.

Christopher Walker, a co-editor and author of one of its chapters, told RFE/RL said the trend has been on the rise since the mid-2000s, fueled by a “lack of confidence” among democracies and “emboldened” regimes.

“These countries are developing very significant media outlets. They’re developing surrogates who operate as organizations… around the [world], and so the democracies need to think about this challenge in a much clearer way as a way to defend their own values,” Walker said.

NGOs Targeted

Co-editor Marc Plattner, who is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, said that the “Big Five” have been united by “a desire to contain the global advance of democracy.”

“They’re also countries that are big enough and rich enough to be able realistically to pursue influence on the global stage,” Plattner said.

William Dobson, chief international editor at the U.S. radio and media organization NPR and the author of The Dictator’s Learning Curve, listed some of the measures used to crackdown on civil society groups. For example, he said more than 120 laws targeting independent NGOs have been proposed or enacted in more than 60 countries since 2012.

“Some of the most pernicious and effective have been those that have been looking to target the connection between domestic NGOs and international funding,” Dobson said. RTWT

“Recognizing and Countering Russian Propaganda.”

Panelists: State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research Director Regina Faranda; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center; Peter Pomerantsev, author of “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”; Sergey Sanovich, professor at New York University; Ann Cooper, professor at Columbia University; Chris Walker, vice president for studies at the National Endowment for Democracy; and James Kirchick, fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative

8:30 a.m. April 21, 2016

Venue: GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, Washington, D.C.


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