Die Rechtfertigung von Repression in autoritären Regimen der arabischen Welt: Offizielles Framing und dessen Zielgruppen


  • This project offers a new perspective on how repression can sustain authoritarianism. It focuses on Tunesia and Morocco – two countries with divergent trajectories during the Arab uprisings. Bridging framing and autocracy research, the project develops a new concept of justifications of repression. It shows how their application in different branches of government differs, why certain types of justifications are chosen, and what effect they have.
    DFG, 2019-2024


    Team

    Alexander Dukalskis

    Dr. Mirjam Edel

    Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

    Ass. Prof. Dr. Merouan Mekouar

    York University

    Kressen Thyen

    Sean Yom


    Forschungsfragen

    How do state officials in authoritarian regimes justify repression?
    Why were certain justifications chosen in the repression of Arab uprising protests?

    Beitrag zu internationaler Forschung

    This project offers a dynamic perspective on how repression can sustain authoritarianism. Its major innovation is the conceptualization of a novel framework of justifications of repression in authoritarian regimes. It studies various types of justifications of repression, their application in different branches of government, why they are chosen, and what effect they have. The project not only considers repressive acts by the executive, but also includes repression by the legislative and in jurisdiction, going beyond conventional research. The Arab uprisings will be a focal point for analyzing the justifications in the repression of protests in Morocco and Tunisia, adding to the burgeoning Arab Spring literature. The project findings will also contribute to protest and repression research as well as to literature on political communication. Research on comparative authoritarianism will benefit from the framing approach, but mostly from the innovative focus on target audiences of justification.

    Forschungsdesign und Methoden

    The project’s research design is a structured, focused comparison of Tunisia and Morocco. The analysis will show how in these two cases facing a similar challenge during the Arab uprisings, the outcome of diverging types of repression justification depended on different justifying actors, different (inter)national target audiences, and differences in path dependency, leading to divergent trajectories.
    A qualitative approach is appropriate for uncovering working mechanisms of the processes leading to certain justifications. As no ready-made theories are at hand for analyzing this novel topic, the project will proceed in an exploratory manner to develop causal explanations in a plausibility probe.
    Multiple methods such as content analysis of legal documents, framing analysis of media reports, and process tracing will help investigate different research objectives. Sources will include archival documents, news reports, and qualitative semi-structured interviews with relevant actors. A mapping of justifications of repression between 2001 and 2010 serves as the baseline for diachronic within-case comparison of how the policing of Arab uprisings protests was justified. Process tracing will shed light on the rationale for certain justifications as well on their reception by analyzing framing and counterframing. Besides repressive acts by the executive, also the justification of anti-terror legislation as a legislative tool of repression will be considered. In addition, justifications brought forward in court trials will illuminate the judiciary’s role in repression.

    Vorläufige Ergebnisse

    In spite of the claim that only democracies care about legitimacy, this project demonstrates that autocrats seek to legitimize themselves and even their violent actions, at least towards some parts of their populations and external observers. Political communication plays an important role even in autocracies. Autocrats have various options at their disposal when considering how they want to communicate certain acts of repression, ranging from silence, denial and diversion to justification. However, some repressive events are so visible that autocratic officials are forced to communicate about them in some way. One recurrent element of framing anti-regime protesters is to accuse them of being criminals and terrorists. Considering the target audiences of such justifications, both internal and external, is essential for understanding communicative acts. Investigating which autocratic actors choose which justifications when facing various types of challenges helps us paint a more holistic picture of repression and the ways in which it can sustain autocratic rule.


    GIGA Focus Nahost | 4/2023

    Tunesiens Präsident Kais Saied: vom Hoffnungsträger zum Autokraten

    Nach dem arabischen Frühling war Tunesien die einzige arabische Demokratie. Präsident Kais Saieds Putsch im Juli 2021 führte jedoch zu einer Autokratisierung. Dieser GIGA Focus zeichnet seine Unterstützungsbasis, Strategien und Rhetorik nach.

    Workshop | 17.06.2023

    Workshops on Middle East Politics: Media, Information and Digitization

    Workshops on Middle East Politics: Media, Information and Digitization, University of Tübingen, Tübingen Organisation: Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen Dr. Maria Josua (Panelbeitragende:r)

    Maria Josua participated in the Workshops on Middle East Politics in Tübingen with an input on "Media responsibility vis-à-vis autocratic discourse and disinformation in the digital age" on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the CMEPS Master Program of The American University in Cairo and the University of Tübingen.

    Konferenz | 14.06.2023 - 16.06.2023

    Offene Sektionstagung der Sektion Internationale Beziehungen der DVPW

    Offene Sektionstagung der Sektion Internationale Beziehungen der DVPW, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen Organisation: Sektion "Internationale Beziehungen", DVPW Dr. Maria Josua (Organisator:in)

    Maria Josua and Julia Gurol jointly organised and chaired a panel on "How Authoritarian Narratives Travel: Exploring Senders and Audiences at Home and Abroad" at the IR Section Conference of the German Political Science Foundation in Friedrichshafen.