Joseph Naser

Eternal Silence: Statelessness as a Determinant of Journalist Killings

April 2, 2021   /  

Student Name: Joseph Naser
Majors: Political Science
Advisor: Professor Matt Krain, Second Reader: Dr. Jeffrey Lantis

Research has shown that journalists are at the greatest likelihood of being killed in democratic countries with younger governments, lower levels of economic development, and higher levels of economic inequality. I argue that in addition to these factors, the condition of “statelessness” acts as a determinant of journalist killings. In stateless countries, marked by high levels of political instability, societal violence, corruption, and a lack of enforcement of the law, both state and non-state actors have additional incentives and a wider range of opportunities to commit journalist killings with impunity. Analyzing data on the frequency of journalist killings from the Committee to Protect Journalists with select data from the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, I found strong empirical evidence that suggests that statelessness has an impact on the frequency of journalist killings. The results also indicated that unlike the rule of law and levels of corruption, political instability and societal violence were the only impactful aspects of statelessness.

Joseph will be online to field comments on April 16: 8am-10 am EDT (Asia: evening, Africa/Europe afternoon).

68 thoughts on “Eternal Silence: Statelessness as a Determinant of Journalist Killings”

    1. Thank you Dr. Lantis! I truly appreciate your mentorship and support, both throughout the IS process and throughout my time at the College of Wooster!

  1. Wow, Joseph, this was so cool to check out your project now after hearing a lot about it in fall semester when you TA’d for PSCI 401! You really dug in with a new (compared to your JR IS) topic and ran with it – well done. This is such an important topic area – great work! Glad to have had the chance to work with you both in my political psychology course and as a TA. Best of luck after Wooster!

    1. Thank you Professor Bos! I really enjoyed working on this newer topic with Professors Krain and Lantis. It was my pleasure to work with you in Political Psychology of Mass Behavior and as a TA for 401! Thanks again!

  2. Definitely a topic that needed to be brought to light. Thanks for sharing your findings and Congratulations!

    1. Thank you Lauren! I believe I was able to make a valuable contribution to our knowledge on this serious topic, and I hope you enjoyed learning about it as much as I did.

  3. Good morning Joseph . Great topic . Timely and relevant . What do you think about Navalny’s hunger strike and the possibility they may force feed him ?

    1. Good morning! I believe what is currently happening to Alexei Navalny is a prime example of some of the theories I found in past research while working on my own topic. Research has shown that journalists are at a greater likelihood of being killed in countries with democratic regimes as opposed to autocratic regimes. This is due to the ability of journalists in democratic countries to pursue a greater range of topics for their work, including more dangerous topics. It is also due to the fact that autocratic regimes have a wider range of methods of suppressing journalists considered problematic apart from outright murder. Thus, in an autocratic-leaning country like Russia, where Navalny has published information about corruption and other issues that political elites would prefer to keep under wraps, the Kremlin has been able to take alternative steps (in this case, imprisonment) rather than outright killing Navalny. Of course, this theory is complicated by the fact that an unconfirmed perpetrator (presumed to be one or more figures in the Russian government) has already made an attempt on Navalny’s life in August of 2020.

      With regards to his hunger strike, only time will tell how successful Navalny is in his protests against the Russian prison system. He has certainly caused quite a stir both within Russia and throughout the international community already.

  4. Congratulations, Joe! Nice to connect with you again, and best wishes for your future plans, whatever they may be.

    1. Thank you Professor Uber! I appreciate you taking the time to check out my research project. Thank you for your help in guiding my Spanish education and for your kind wishes!

  5. Joseph – As someone who has worked on this research question previously, I am so pleased to see how your work has added to our understanding of this crucial topic. As the space within which civil society gets ever more constricted the key role that journalists play, and the dangers they face, is even more important. It was such a pleasure working with you on this. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you Professor Krain! You have my most sincere gratitude for all of your support and guidance through the research process. Working with you on this has been the highlight of my academic career. I am honored to have worked with you and to have made a contribution to our knowledge on this topic! Thanks again!

  6. Joseph – very interesting research and important work for supporting press freedom internationally. Your research found that two indicators of statelessness – political instability and societal violence – are more predictive of violence against journalists. When you did your analysis, were there any countries that surprised you – that perhaps had low levels of statelessness but were, nevertheless, many cases of violence against journalists?

    1. Edit – When you did your analysis, were there any countries that surprised you – that perhaps had low levels of statelessness but had, nevertheless, many cases of violence against journalists?

    2. In general, the countries that experienced higher levels of journalist killings tended to fit the profile created by our current understanding of the factors that can impact the frequency of journalist killings. That is to say, that democratic countries with lower levels of economic development, higher levels of economic inequality, higher levels of societal violence, and higher levels of political instability tend to experience the highest rate of journalist killings. Thus, it is no surprise that countries such as Mexico, Brazil, India, and Colombia are generally among the countries with the highest number of journalist killings. Of course, in the real world there are exceptions to every rule, and so there were a few countries that did not necessarily experience higher levels of statelessness that nonetheless had higher levels of journalist killings. One example would be Russia, which did not have extremely high levels of statelessness (political instability or societal violence) and yet still experienced a high number of journalist killings. Cases like Russia demonstrate that our understanding of all factors affecting journalist killings may still be limited, and more research will be necessary to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that can increase the likelihood of journalist killings. Thanks for a great question!

  7. Congrats Joe. I will watch it when I get off work tonight. Love ya cousin. Joanne

  8. Congratulations Joseph, and we wish you the best in your plans beyond Wooster!

    1. Thank you Professor Pasteur! I appreciate you taking the time to take a look at my research!

  9. Joseph, this was very informative. Your research brings to light a lot of awareness to a sad topic many don’t know about. Thank you for this.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to take a look at my research! I am honored that my research can help deepen our understanding of journalist killings and, consequently, can offer ways of preventing them in the future.

    1. Thank you Professor Simpson! It means a lot that you took the time to check out my IS!

  10. Congratulations Joe on this project! Really nice work finding strong empirical evidence here on such an underrepresented–but no less really important and “real world”–topic

  11. Great research Joe! Very weird how this topic can relate to overfishing in the ocean! Hope to see you soon!

  12. Joe! Congrats! I think this is very well done, and I’m impressed that you found serious statistical significance on your first shot at this. It all makes sense theoretically, but it’s another thing to translate that into quantitative data—well done!

    1. Thank you Nick! I appreciate you coming to check out my research, and it was very exciting to find statistical significance in this project. I definitely learned a lot about data collection and research throughout the process!

  13. Congratulations Joseph! Your IS is an interesting research. The concept of statelessness is an interesting and concrete framework for your research questions and analysis. From a geographical perspective (thinking in a map), I wonder if adding case studies from Central America, or Chile –in which the Cold War had a terrible impact–could have complicated and/ or expanded your framework. I am thinking in global forces (and global tensions) as a factor that produces impacts beyond the State.

    1. Thank you Professor Medina! I think you make an interesting point, and had I had more time I would have liked to include a case study or two. I think the literature on journalist killings is at a point where several new case studies could be especially revealing. In particular, I think future research should conduct case studies for the countries that have historically had higher rates of journalist killings in order to better understand how the factors identified in the literature can increase the likelihood of journalist killings in real-world contexts. In addition, I would definitely agree with your point in that the impact of external political factors on the frequency of journalist killings needs more attention; the field of international relations can occasionally suffer from an over-emphasis on the state as the principal actor in the world of politics, resulting in less research into the effects of the international community and political climate.

  14. Well done Joe! What an interesting topic. You have a bright future ahead of you.

  15. Wonderful work, Joseph, on a very important research question! I wish you all the best.

    1. Thank you Professor Holt! Thank you for your guidance and support throughout my time at Wooster, especially during the bustle of freshman year!

  16. Hey Joe! This is such an interesting area of research, I learned so much from your presentation! One question: what do you think would be important to consider for minimizing these harmful outcomes (journalist assassinations)? Wishing you all the best my friend!

    1. Hey Gracie, thanks for stopping by to check out my IS! My results indicated that in addition to some of the other previously identified factors that can increase the likelihood of journalist killings, the presence of statelessness, and in particular, political instability and/or societal violence, can also act as a factor that increases the likelihood of journalist assassinations. Therefore, I would argue that reducing political instability and minimizing societal violence should be featured as part of the approach taken by states and international/intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to prevent journalist killings. In addition, although it may seem obvious, journalists themselves should have caution in choosing to enter politically unstable and violent environments, as my results indicated that these environments pose a greater threat to journalists than more stable, less violent ones. Thank you for an interesting question!

  17. Joe! You did a fantastic job with this investigation. Congrats on finishing I.S! If you had 1 more year to further your investigation what might be your next research goals?

    1. Hey Asvin, thanks for checking out my IS! One thing I would like to look into were I to continue this research would be case studies. I mentioned in another comment that I think the literature on journalist killings has reached a point where several case studies into particular countries would be beneficial. Researchers have identified several factors that can increase the likelihood of journalist killings, such as regime type, regime duration, economic inequality/development levels, etc. My research has identified statelessness as another factor that can increase the likelihood of journalist killings. I think that future research should conduct case studies in order to analyze the effects of these factors and to see how they play out in the “real world.” Thanks for a great question!

  18. Great work on the thesis. Congratulations on this milestone!! A free press is a requirement of true democracies and your focus on this connection is timely and needed.

  19. Joe: The topic you chose is so important. You had the chance to work with terrific professors and explore an issue of vital significance to all of humankind. Congratulations to you, Joe. Your work ethic and your empathy for others will serve you well as you move on from Wooster. Continued best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Mr. Gilliss, thank you for taking the time to check out my IS! The opportunity to attend the College of Wooster and to conduct this research has been monumental in my own life and in my personal development, and I could not feel more proud in knowing that with the completion of my IS, I am now the company of yourself and the other Wooster alumni that I had revered as a kid. Thank you for inspiring me from a young age to pursue higher education and knowledge with both patience and zeal. I would like to extend to you and your family my best wishes as well.

  20. Hi Joseph, I enjoyed reading about your IS. This is such a timely topic given the increasing “statelessness “ the world over, and the increasing blur between facts and fake news. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Congratulations, Joseph! I think it speaks volumes that you did not shy away from this research topic and that you shared your findings with us, so that we may learn as well. Thank you!

Comments are closed.