Expanding Influences Research to Insecure Democracies: How violence, public insecurity, economic inequality and uneven democratic performance shape journalists’ perceived work environments

Sallie Hughes, Claudia Mellado, Jesús Arroyave, José Luis Benitez, Arnold de Beer, Miguel Garcés, Katharina Lang, Mireya Márquez-Ramírez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Democracies with sharp violence and public insecurity have proliferated in recent decades, with many also featuring extreme economic inequality. These conditions have not been explicitly considered in comparative research on journalists’ work environments, an omission that may obscure important realities of contemporary journalism. We address this gap through analysis of journalist surveys in 62 countries. We confirm the existence of insecure democracies as an empirical phenomenon and begin to unravel their meaning for journalists. We find democracies with uneven democratic performance tend to have more journalist assassinations, which is the most extreme form of influence on work, and that levels of democratic performance, violence, public insecurity and economic inequality significantly shape how journalists perceive various influences in their work environment. Case studies of insecure democracies in Africa and Latin America address why these conditions sometimes (but not always) lead to journalist assassinations and other anti-press violence. They suggest anti-press violence is higher when sub-national state actors intensify criminal violence and when insecurity is geographically and topically proximate to journalists. How journalists’ perceive influences on work are therefore more complex and multidimensional than previous research has suggested. The study concludes by identifying areas for improvement in data collection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-665
Number of pages21
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2017



  • Africa
  • Influences on work
  • insecure democracy
  • insecurity
  • journalist surveys
  • Latin America
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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