Communicating Repression: Studying Official Framing and Its Perception in Autocracies


09/06/2022 - 10/06/2022

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  • On 9–10 June 2022, a research workshop brought together scholars working on the nexus of legitimation, protest, and repression in autocracies. The workshop was held in the context of the German Research Foundation (DFG)-funded research project “Justifying Repression in Authoritarian Regimes of the Arab World: Official Framing and Target Audiences,” directed by Dr. Maria Josua. At the workshop, cooperation partners and other colleagues working on these topics presented their ongoing research and discussed preliminary findings of the project.  

    Over the course of two days, participants discussed how repressive policies are communicated and justified, especially in the context of popular protests. The mostly qualitatively informed works were marked by a disaggregated understanding of repression, taking into account various actors and dynamics. Further aspects included changing strategies of repression, the discourses of security forces and other actors, the effects of the communication of repression on protests, and international/transnational repressive policies. The main regional focus was on the MENA region, with case studies spanning from the Maghreb to the Persian Gulf, Turkey, and Iran. The inclusion of a study on Nicaragua and input from scholars specialising in other world regions allowed for a comparative perspective and consideration of cross-regional implications. Political communication in autocracies and the complex entanglement of repression and its justification remain an innovative and growing field of research.


    Dr. Maria Josua

    Research Fellow / Research Team Spokesperson


    GIGA, Hamburg



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    Research Project | 01/07/2019 - 30/06/2023

    Justifying Repression in Authoritarian Regimes of the Arab World: Official Framing and Target Audiences

    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, 2019-2023

    Alexander Dukalskis

    Dr. Mirjam Edel

    Ass. Prof. Dr. Merouan Mekouar

    Kressen Thyen

    Sean Yom

    Holger Zapf

    Authoritarian Turn

    Authoritarian practices are not only used in non-democratic regimes. They can increasingly be found also in formally democratic states, as the examples of shrinking civic space, populism, and democratic backsliding show. Learn more about the GIGA‘s research and knowledge transfer on the topic.

    GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies

    The GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies is one of the leading institutes for Middle East research in Germany and Europe. Scholars examine topics such as state and regime structures, energy security, violent conflicts, forced migration, Islamist movements, and the reshaping of the regional order.


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