Explaining the killing of journalists in the contemporary era: The importance of hybrid regimes and subnational variations

Sallie Hughes, Yulia Vorobyeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Explanations for an increase in the killing of journalists worldwide over the last quarter century include the dangers of war coverage and unsafe conditions in formally democratic countries. Analyzing 1812 killings of journalists from 1992 to 2016, we find that countries with hybrid political regimes mixing liberal and illiberal elements create by far the most dangerous context for journalists, while a particular spatial configuration within those countries, subnational authoritarianism, clarifies the logic of the killings. In short, the study finds that most journalists died in countries where formal democratic norms and practices at the national level encourage investigative reporting in local arenas where powerholders have incentives to violently suppress critical press coverage. On a theoretical level, the synthesis of spatial analysis, comparative politics and journalism studies opens a fruitful path for theorizing anti-press violence and journalist safety. In terms of policy, international action should increase costs to national governments that overlook local misbehavior in return for political support. Discourse spotlighting local journalists’ contributions to human rights and democratic accountability may also be helpful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1873-1891
Number of pages19
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Anti-press violence
  • journalist safety, hybrid political regimes
  • spatial analysis
  • subnational authoritarianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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