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Media Capture Under Cover of COVID

While media capture occurs in the best of times, a crisis creates opportunities to act even more brazenly to assert control over the information to which people are exposed. During the coronavirus pandemic, both repressive governments and Big Tech behemoths have seized these opportunities.

NEW YORK – Since the pandemic began 18 months ago, autocratic governments around the world have tightened their grip on the flow of information. These power grabs are all advanced attempts at “media capture,” a term that covers the multiple ways governments, corporations, and other powerful entities seek to influence media output to protect vested interests.

Media capture is hardly limited to times of crisis. In much of the world, including in parts of Central Europe and Latin America, media outlets are controlled by government cronies. But a crisis creates opportunities to act even more brazenly, under the guise of combating potentially deadly misinformation and disinformation.

In Turkey, a prolonged, systematic assault on the press – the country has one of the world’s worst records for jailing journalists – has all but eliminated independent media. Predictably, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has used the pandemic as an excuse to squeeze the few remaining outlets.

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