Report: Stifling the Public Sphere: Media and Civil Society in Egypt, Russia, and Vietnam

A New Report by the International Forum for Democratic Studies
Published October 2015

Forum-Report-Stifling-the-Public-Sphere-Media-and-Civil-Society-in-Egypt-Russia-VietnamDownload the Full Report [PDF]

Egypt [PDF] by Sherif Mansour

Russia [PDF]  by Maria Snegovaya

Vietnam [PDF] by Zachary Abuza

Civil society and independent media play crucial roles in effective public policy-making and for improving public discourse. But in authoritarian regimes such as Egypt, Russia, and Vietnam—countries aspiring to modernization through rapidly growing Internet access—repression of civil society and the media is not just severe, but getting worse.

These regimes’ political priorities compel them to systematically crack down on the very institutions that are essential for meaningful reform and economic progress.

In a new report by the International Forum for Democratic Studies, three experts assess the shape and trajectory of civil society and the media, the restrictions that are placed on them, and how these constraints are holding each country back.

The environment for media and civil society is undeniably grim in all three of the cases examined in this report, due to official policies that limit the potential of the public sphere. But each of the analysts suggests the existence of a powerful latent desire for better information and more responsive governance.” 

— Christopher Walker, Introduction

Few issues show the discrepancy between the promise of the 2011 revolution and the reality of repression more clearly than media independence and freedom of speech. Repression against journalists and autonomous outlets helped return Egypt to a system of authoritarian stagnation.”

—Sherif Mansour, Egypt

The smothering of media and civil society further weakens the Russian system’s ability to tackle the country’s already-rampant corruption and will shrink incentives to reform the economy. That, in turn, is likely to create even more favorable ground for lawlessness and provide more impunity for corrupt officials.”

— Maria Snegovaya, Russia

The proliferation of technology and the Internet [in Vietnam] may have changed the game and given the private media the potential for rapid expansion, but until the state decides that such outlets are not a threat, they will be systematically targeted.”

— Zachary Abuza, Vietnam