CfP – ‘Media Control as a Source of Political Power in Central and Eastern Europe’


Workshop at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki organized by the Russian Media Lab in collaboration with the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen

Helsinki, 02 – 03 September 2019

We invite proposals for papers to be discussed at an intensive two-day workshop on “Media control as source of political power in Central and Eastern Europe” at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki on 02 – 03 September 2019. The workshop will involve around 15 scholars, and early-career researchers are especially encouraged to apply. Travel expenses and accommodation costs of invited participants will be covered by the organisers.

The workshop aims to bring together approaches from political science, media studies and other relevant academic disciplines to get a more comprehensive picture of the role of media control in consolidating and expanding political power in authoritarian regimes and in “backsliding” democracies. The focus of the workshop will equally be on the interplay of media and political actors and on the effect of this relationship on regime dynamics.

Several studies have shown that in electoral or competitive authoritarian regimes media manipulation is used more often than most other types of manipulation when regimes attempt to shift the “playing field” in their favour. This makes media one of the major battlefields in political power struggles. Similarly, in backsliding democracies, media are one of the first targets of authoritarian tendencies.

However, the numerous studies on the role of mass media for political power rarely go beyond the question of control over mass media, implicitly assuming that media ownership means successful manipulation of public opinion via reporting, and thus a strengthening of authoritarian politics.

The workshop starts from the notion that the most interesting story often starts once ownership has been established and media outlets have to negotiate both market conditions and political restrictions. Which message should be delivered? How to bring journalists into line? How not to lose the audience? How to deal with rival mass media and alternative online sources of information? In sum: how to make sure that the population is exposed—mainly—to messages framed by the actors dominating the political regime?

To examine these questions, our workshop wants to look at a broad range of actors (including journalists, political office-holders regulating media and entrepreneurs owning media) and at a broad range of interactions (including legislative and organisational issues as well as actual media reporting). The focus of invited papers, however, should always be on the role of media actors, media ownership and media reporting for political power struggles and political regime dynamics.

Deadline for the submission of paper proposals is 31 March 2019. In addition to a 300-word abstract, please include a brief biographical statement in your submission. Selected paper-givers will be invited by 30 April 2019. Full papers will be due 31 July 2019.

We plan to publish selected workshop papers in a special issue of the Scopus-listed open access journal Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media (

Paper proposals and any questions should be addressed to the workshop organisers:

Dr Mariëlle Wijermars, Aleksanteri Institute:

Prof Dr Heiko Pleines, Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen:

The workshop is co-organized by the research project „Media control as source of political power: The role of oligarchs in electoral authoritarian regimes“, which is conducted by the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen and receives financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – grant No. 391270526.

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