NPCU PhD candidate Puay Hoe Chua will present at the IAMCR annual conference being held at the University of Leicester on 27-31 July 2016. Chua's paper, The Impact of Freedom of Expression on Political Legitimacy in Four Asian Cities, is co-authored with Jingxi Chen of Beijing Jiaotong University in China. Please find details of their paper below.
Abstract: Much of the research in political communication tend to be conducted in the Western context and from the deliberative democracy perspective whereby freedom of expression is typically assumed. Any government in the Western industrialised countries that attempts to threaten or diminish freedom of expression would likely suffer a loss of legitimacy in the eyes of the populace. However, in many Asian countries, governmental control or influence of the media landscape appears to be tolerated by the citizens. Freedom of expression thus might be viewed differently in different societies since political systems, cultural and historical backgrounds, and demands for democratic processes may be different from the West. Rather than studying how different media policies relate to perceptions of democracy, this study instead focuses on perceptions of political legitimacy. As regardless of the political system that a country adopts, political legitimacy is still required for a government to function efficiently.
This study aims to examine the relationship between perceptions of governmental influence of media and political legitimacy. Four Asian cities (Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei) will be comparatively analysed as these societies have different levels of governmental influence in the media landscape while having similarities in many other aspects. Importantly, the media systems in the societies to be analysed are incongruent and are often ranked vastly different by international civil society organizations. To illustrate, Freedom House in 2015 ranked China 186th, Singapore 148th, Hong Kong 83rd and Taiwan 48th out of 199 countries in terms of press freedom.
Some studies concluded that a controlled media system would result in a trusting public supportive of the government while others show an inverse relationship between media control and political participation. Political support and participation are common measures for legitimacy and so how does the level of political communication control affect political legitimacy? Political legitimacy is the acceptance and willingness to obey government, which is ultimately based on the perception of the populace. Legitimacy can be performance-based (ability to deliver the physical needs of the people) or process-based (governance system and procedures that are inclusive for all). Freedom of expression would be a critical element in process-based legitimacy.
This research conducted a survey (n=830) of university students from the four cities and OLS regression models are utilised for analysis. Perception of press freedom significantly predicted support for the government in Beijing and Singapore but not Hong Kong and Taiwan. Perception of freedom of personal speech significantly predicts support for the government in Singapore only. Perception of economic condition of the country significantly predicts support for the political system in Beijing and Singapore but not in Hong Kong and Taipei. Other variables such as political efficacy, authoritarian values and democratic orientation will also be analysed. Findings from the survey data and implications within the context of global economic slowdown will be discussed.