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Citizens' Use of New Media in Authoritarian Regimes: A Case Study of Uganda

December 06, 2016 by Åke Grönlund, Wairagala Wakabi

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By subsidizing the costs of civic participation, the use of the Internet use is believed to stimulate participation but there are fears that intensive Internet use causes withdrawal from public life. This paper investigates the connection between the way individuals participate online and offline in authoritarian, low-income regimes, and the nature of eParticipation among citizens in authoritarian regimes such as Uganda. Based on personal interviews with 116 Internet users, the study found that common drivers of eParticipation, such as low cost, security and anonymity are hard to transplant into the offline world for citizens of authoritarian states such as Uganda. Perceived risks of retribution and intimidation for expressing a particular opinion or supporting a political cause mean that citizen-to-citizen participation is the predominant form but still at low levels, while citizen-to-government participation is negligible.