The majority of people now live under illiberal regimes or some form of autocracy as a consequence of democratic declines occurring globally since 2010. Understanding the driving forces behind this historic setback to democratic progress will be essential for turning the tide. An analysis of media indicators in the Varieties of Democracy Institute’s global index illustrates a common pattern in countries experiencing democratic setbacks, with important implications for action. Time and again, would-be autocrats seek to methodically dismantle press freedom and independence as an early step towards consolidating power. Analysis of this trend bolsters a growing international effort to support and safeguard independent media as a strategy for revitalizing democratic progress.
–> Attacks on independent media are warning signs of deepening autocratization. Early intervention to protect a free press is critical for preventing further erosion of the space for democratic dissent and free expression.
–> The process of silencing independent journalism is often slow and gradual. This quiet erosion of media independence and pluralism allows autocrats to flood the information space with partisan, propagandistic media.
–> Illiberal regimes learn from one another, using tactics and strategies to silence independent journalism that have proven successful in similar contexts.