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ERC

RATE Report Summary

Project ID: 336019
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Mid-Term Report Summary - RATE (Repression and the Escalation of Conflict)

This project analyzes when and how political violence committed by the state escalates. Our findings from global cross-temporal studies show that when the government limits the freedom of the media, it is likely to subsequently escalate its physical repression of the wider population. These results highlight how the respect for civil liberties and physical integrity rights are closely intertwined and how the violation of press freedom is often a precursor for more government violence.

Using a novel dataset that utilizes information collected by three globally active non-governmental organizations, we show that the killing of journalists acts as an early warning signal for deteriorating human rights conditions in the following two years. It emphasizes the importance of closely monitoring the safety of journalists, not only for the security of the journalists but also as an indicator of increasing government violence. Using our novel data we provide new insights into where most journalists are killed and by which type of actor between 2002 and 2014. Our data show that journalists are killed in many countries outside of major wars and primarily in democratic countries. Identifying the perpetrators of the killings either as state actors, non-state political actors (such as rebel groups), non-political actors (such as criminal gangs) or unconfirmed actors, we highlight that while most perpetrators remain unconfirmed, the second most common perpetrator is linked to the government. Particularly surprising is that in countries generally recognized as democracies more journalists are killed by government actors than in any other regime type, if we exclude major wars. Our global cross-temporal studies show that journalists are most often killed by a government actor or unconfirmed perpetrator in democracies with a corrupt executive or judiciary. These new insights highlight the importance of fully implementing accountability and transparency within and across all political institutions, as democracies that are not fully accountable pose the greatest risk for journalists.

To better understand the dynamics of government-sponsored violence, we analyze the role of pro-government militias, which have received little academic attention but are present in many countries around the globe. Our research shows that governments design their security apparatus to address different challenges. We illustrate how informally aligning with these armed groups can help some governments avoid accountability for violence and repression. Weak democracies as well as recipients of financial aid from democracies are particularly likely to form informal ties with militias, especially when the recipient is far away from the nearest democracy, because this increases the monitoring costs of the democratic donors. Governments use semi-official militias to counter the risk of a civil war, a coup or to avoid accountability towards democratic aid donors.

Since governments often use militias to fight insurgencies, we analyze how these forces affect the outcome and duration of counterinsurgency wars. Our findings highlight that informal militias are not suited to help the government defeat an insurgency. Militias with a more formalized link to the government are better able to do that but at the cost of lengthening the conflict.

Reported by

UNIVERSITAET MANNHEIM
Germany
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