Measuring Academic Freedom in a Regional and Global Perspectives

Feb. 27, 2019 news

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A commentary for the Baltic Worlds by Vello Pettai, Professor of Comparative, Politics at the University of Tartu and Director of the V-Dem Regional Center for Eastern Europe and Russia:

Democratic backsliding has been an abiding and pervasive concern across the postcommunist region for almost a decade. Data from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset corroborate this phenomenon and show that one of the contributors to this decline is a narrowing of freedom for academic and cultural expression. While not being the sole driver of this recent backsliding trend, the opportunity for open academic and cultural exchange does remain an important principle of basic electoral democracy. Moreover, because it often goes hand in hand with levels of media diversity, it is part of the general health of a society’s public sphere. It therefore speaks to the overall vibrancy of critique, oversight and accountability in a democracy.

This commentary examines the VDem dataset from the perspective of not only how it specifically measures freedom of academic and cultural expression in the post-communist region, but also how these levels can be compared to other regions of the world. How critical is the situation across Eastern Europe and Eurasia when viewed in a global perspective? How close are the trends we feel on the basis of news reports or single events to actual patterns of autocratization?

“Where the range of media perspectives narrows or fewer media outlets regularly criticize the government, the level of academic and cultural freedom also diminishes.”

“Autocratizing leaders are clearly more interested in cracking down on the broad contours of media freedom than they are on academic and cultural expression.”

The full article is available here  62-65 Pettai NM.pdf (140.4 KB) .

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