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Journalist Fellows' Papers
Journalism & Democracy

Evading the censors: Critical journalism in authoritarian states

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Mikal Hem, a freelance journalist who has worked for several of Norway’s leading newspapers, has written a detailed study of how journalists do, and can, get round censorship in semi-democratic authoritarian states.  

In his research paper, ‘Evading the censors: Critical journalism in authoritarian states’, Mikal focuses his attention on four different countries – Malaysia, Russia, Singapore and Venezuela.There are some similarities in the media environment in these states, and in the way their governments control the media, but there are also significant differences in their censorship methods. Even though media censorship is widespread, their governments do not have totalitarian control of the press. Instead, much of the censorship happens through indirect methods. 

Mikal, who was in Oxford for one term sponsored by the Fritt Ord Foundation, interviews  journalists and others in those countries about their own experiences with censorship, what they know about the use of censorship and if they have used methods to evade censors. Mikal describes and analyses the different contexts in which censorship takes place, but his key conclusions are that journalists have found different ways to get round the censors. These are (1) hide content; (2) use press conferences to air critical views; (3) use media not associated with politics; (4) operate media from abroad; (5) share content and (6) use the internet.

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.

Contributing Authors

Mikal Hem

Contributing Author