The Losing Media? An Empirical Study on the Media Related Litigation in China

Project: Research

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P ALIGN=JUSTIFY>China has recently witnessed a rising number of litigation involving news media. Despite the fact that this type of litigation speaks volumes on the changing role of the media in a time of economic reform and social transition, little effort has been made to examine it empirically. Following a well established research tradition on court decisions, this project will explore the winning possibilities of media related litigation in China. It will investigate what social variables might hinder or facilitate the winning rates of media in courts. It identifies variables such as issues, social status of opposing parties involved, organizational size, political rank and financial resources of the media involved and so on. It will test three sets of hypotheses that address the dynamics between the media and the courts. Supplemented by qualitative data we will collect through structured interviews with journalists and judges, this study will also uncover how the courts make their decisions and how such decisions affect journalists’ practices and their perceptions on the nature of the media reform.This project differs from existing studies in two aspects. First, most existing studies rely on media coverage to select samples of litigation cases, which inevitably suffers from media self-censorship. We propose to study courts’ documentation of adjudication decisions (DADs) which have been made available to the public recently. We will collect a quantitative dataset on media-related litigation across time and regions in China. We will conduct the representative random sampling from the DAD database so that we include those cases which are not sensational enough to be circulated in the media. Second, different from studies that focus only on libel cases, we will compare libel cases with other types of litigation involving news media. Such comparison will allow us to observe how, if any, the courts decisions might vary by the evolving multi-layered nature of Chinese media – as a propaganda machine, as a commercial enterprise and as social justice defender – since commercialization.The findings are critical to understand the status of the media and their relationship with the courts in transitional China. It offers a new perspective to observe the media behavior and to understand the institutional dynamics and constrains in shaping the media behavior. It also speaks to the mechanisms through the China has maintained the institutional resilience when facing the information revolution. This proposal is built on our preliminary data collections and pilot analysis, which have presented interesting findings and indicated feasibility of the project.


Project number9042117
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1528/06/18

    Research areas

  • media,court,commercialization,authoritarian state,