NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Government Distortion in Independently Owned Media: Evidence from U.S. Cold War News Coverage of Human Rights

Nancy Qian, David Yanagizawa-Drott

NBER Working Paper No. 15738
Issued in February 2010
NBER Program(s):   POL

This paper investigates the extent to which strategic objectives of the U.S. government influenced news coverage during the Cold War. We establish two relationships: 1) strategic objectives of the U.S. government cause the State Department to under-report human rights violations of strategic allies; and 2) these objectives reduce news coverage of human rights abuses for strategic allies in six U.S. national newspapers. To establish causality, we exploit plausibly exogenous variation in a country's strategic value to the U.S. from the interaction of its political alliance to the U.S. and membership on the United Nations Security Council. In addition to the main results, we are able to provide qualitative evidence and indirect quantitative evidence to shed light on the mechanisms underlying the reduced form effects.

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This paper was revised on September 16, 2013

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15738

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