Populism, Authoritarianism, and the Media: The Age of Mediocracy and Mediacracy

A Prague Media Point conference
When: Nov 12th, 2015 - Nov 14th, 2015
Where: NYU Prague, Malé náměstí 11


Event overview

This fall’s edition of the international conference series Prague Media Point will address the influence of authoritarianism and populism on the development of the media and communication industries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as other regions of the world.


Keynote speakers

Anna Matušková

Political scientist, Assistant Professor at Charles University in Prague, Department of Marketing Communication and PR, and founder at Campaigns. Ms. Matušková worked as consultant and adviser on various campaigns in the Czech Republic (presidential campaign, parliamentary elections 2013 and abroad (US, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Egypt, etc.). She published various books on campaigning and political parties. She is a former Fulbright scholar (Columbia University New York 2007/2008) and currently resides in Prague.

Benjamin De Cleen

Lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, he has also taught at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Benjamin De Cleen is the co-director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Signification, and Resistance, one of the coordinators of the Brussels Platform for Journalism, and the former chair of the Young Scholars’ Network of the European Communication Research and Education Association. His research is situated within discourse studies and focuses on political rhetoric and on the intersections between media and politics. Mr. De Cleen is a widely published author.

Christopher Walker

Executive Director of the National Endowment for Democracy's International Forum for Democratic Studies, Member of the Forum 2000 Foundation Program Council, Mr. Walker previously served in Freedom House's New York office as Vice President for Strategy and Analysis, overseeing a team of analysts and senior scholars in devising overall strategy for the organization's analytical projects. His articles on media freedom and democracy have appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Policy. He has served as Adjunct Professor of Global Affairs at New York University. Mr. Walker graduated from the Columbia University.

Jakub Kalenský

Jakub Kalenský, currently a member of East StratCom Task Force in the European External Action Service. Before moving to Brussels this September, he worked as a journalist in various Czech media – printed, TV, websites. He covered mainly domestic politics; in 2012 he was awarded the "Novinářská křepelka" award for promising journalists under 33 years of age. In East StratCom Task Force, Jakub is responsible for the objective called "raising the awareness about Russian disinformation campaign". That includes taking care of a pan-European network of journalists, experts, activists, and organizations covering the issue, and a compilation of a new EEAS product called Disinformation Review, that tries to collect as many disinformation examples as possible. Jakub Kalenský studied Philosophy and Russian language and literature at the Charles University in Prague.

Jiří Pehe

Currently Director of NYU in Prague, Jiří Pehe was director of the Political Department of Czech President Václav Havel between 1997 until 1999. From 1995 to 1997, Pehe was director of Analysis and Research Department at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague. Between 1988 and 1995, he first worked as an analyst of Central European affairs and later as director of Central European Research at the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany. From 1985 to 1988, Pehe was director of East European Studies at Freedom House in New York. He holds a doctorate in law from the Charles University

Nenad Pejic

Nenad Pejic is Editor-in-Chief and co-CEO at RFE/RL. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 1993 as Director of the South Slavic and Albanian Language Broadcast Service, he held various positions with Sarajevo Television, including head of the news department, Belgrade correspondent, and Program Director, the first and last ever elected by the employees. He also served as the Head of Publications and Public Relations at the European Institute for the Media for a short period. Mr. Pejic is a regular lecturer at universities in Germany, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro, at NATO summits, and to a number of NGO’s around Europe.

Péter Krekó

Dr. Péter Krekó is the Director of Political Capital Institute, a think-tank based in Budapest that is doing an extensive research on anti-Semitism, political extremism and political violence in Hungary and Europe. He is also an Associate Professor at ELTE University, and a member of the EU Radicalization Awareness Network Center of Excellence pool of experts, a body that is doing consultancy work and research for the European Commission (DG Home). He regularly serves as commentator on the leading international media. He wrote his PHD thesis on the Social Psychology of Conspiracy Theories.

Peter Pomerantsev

TV producer based in London and author of a study on Russia's weaponization of information, culture, and money, and a book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, about working inside Vladimir Putin’s postmodern dictatorship. Peter Pomerantsev, was born in Kiev and raised in England, and came to Moscow in the early 2000s to work in their fast-growing television and film industry. The job gave him first-hand access to every aspect of the country, and to the elite Russian rich in London and the west. He is an award-winning contributor to the London Review of Books and his writing has been published in the Financial Times, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Daily Beast, Newsweek and Le Monde Diplomatique, among others. He has also worked as a consultant for the EU and World Bank. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow to the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute.

Yulia Savchenko

An international journalist and broadcaster currently working at the Russian service of the Voice of America in Washington, Ms. Yulia Savchenko started her career in journalism in Kyrgyzstan at the age of 17. A graduate of Stanford's the Program for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford and Fletcher Institute for the Advanced study of Non-violent conflict , Ms. Savchenko is also an expert on Central Asian and Russian affairs. Her work has appeared in publications including Democracy at Large and Global Integrity Index. and (new sentence) She has also  served as regional editor for www.neweurasia.net, TOL's platform devoted to Central Asia.

Conference Materials

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About the Project

With the rise of internet and social media, the media industry has undergone a substantial transformation in the past several years. What challenges does it face as it adapts to the world in which communication has changed dramatically? What is the impact of new technologies on the public access to information? What is the relationship between media and politics? How does media ownership influence the content of the news? In an effort to discuss these pertinent questions, as well as other aspects of the transformation, the Prague Media Point will offer a series of annual academic conferences in Prague, which will bring together the relevant actors involved in the process, including academics, media practitioners, political analysts, and representatives of NGOs. This fall’s edition will look at how media industries are affected by authoritarianism and populism.

The Prague Media Point project evolved from the 25 Years After conference, which took place in 2014 and focused on the transformation of the media industries in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Around 15 panels, which combined top Central European journalists with media academics, looked at all aspects of the transition, including post-communist media reforms, role of new media, and so forth. 

The project is organized by and is a result of cooperation between KEYNOTE and Transitions (TOL):




KEYNOTE is an experienced, well established consultancy and production firm that deploys unique conference design capabilities and organizational acumen. We can develop each event from an initial concept, through a thorough planning and preparation period, to a successful execution. We are aware of the importance of event follow-up, sharing outcomes, and developing long-term sustainable knowledge-based networks. 

The KEYNOTE team and our pool of highly qualified and experienced collaborators focus principally on politics, international relations, security, civil society, new social trends, and business. We regularly cooperate with a number of highly respected speakers in these areas.

We have implemented or are currently implementing projects in cooperation with notable partners that include the Aspen Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Brookings Institution, Transitions (TOL), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Bata Shoe Foundation, European Commission, European Parliament, Deloitte, and the University of Pittsburgh. We permanently operate in close cooperation with the Forum 2000 Foundation.




Transitions (TOL) was founded in 1999 and is a leading online newsmagazine and media development organization with a mission of actively championing democracy, pluralism, and freedom of expression. We do this by strengthening the professionalism, independence, and impact of media and civil society organizations, with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.

Over the past 15 years has built up a reputation as one of Central Europe’s leading journalism educators. To date, over 5,000 journalists and student-journalists from around the world have passed through TOL’s training programs, which have specialized in journalism and new media instruction. Throughout the year, TOL offers courses focused on a number of beats and methods of reporting. The courses include initial online sessions before students arrive in Prague and then at least a week of lectures and reporting experience in the Czech Republic, led by top-notch journalists working for either international (the BBC, AP, NPR, The Economist, The New York Times, etc.) or Czech media. The TOL study abroad programs are reporting-based, which means that after morning lectures, students get out of the classroom and report real stories under the guidance of their instructors. At TOL we believe in close, personalized attention to each student, and instructors provide individualized assistance and guidance for every student as they pitch, develop, report and write their stories.

Call for papers & Registrations Deadlines

Populism, authoritarianism, and the media: The age of mediocracy and mediacracy
A Prague Media Point conference

Call for Papers

Prague, 12-14 November 2015


This fall's conference will address the influence of authoritarianism and populism on the development of the media and communication industries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as other regions of the world.

We are seeking papers that will contribute to a critical examination of this topic and result in fruitful discussion panels at the event. We invite abstracts on any of the following topics.*

We invite abstracts on any of the following topics, though this list is not exhaustive:

  • Oligarchs, concentration of power, and media ownership – a Central European trend?
  • The legacy of the past on the development of the media in post-authoritarian regimes.
  • Modern methods used by populists to manipulate the media and the public.
  • The use of social media by authoritarian regimes and their proxies.
  • Netizens’ opposition to authoritarianism.
  • The growth transnationally of authoritarian (or illiberal) media.
  • Political vs. media populism.
  • Internet trolling and hate speech as a new social phenomenon.
  • Differences and similarities in media markets under authoritarian regimes.
  • Media constructions of popular, professional, and political identities.
  • Relationships between media, communication industries (public relations), and politics.
  • The use of public polling in closed and semi-closed societies.

*Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of topics, and we will review any abstracts related to how authoritarianism and populism shape media industries and vice versa.

Please submit your 500-word abstracts by 31 July, 2015. The registration is closed, however if you think that the topic of your research is closely related to the theme of the conference, do not hesitate to contact us

Please submit your full paper by 7 October, 2015.

The organizers have also reserved a number of spaces for non-presenting conference attendees. Please register here

The international conference series Prague Media Point is an annual event taking place in Prague which addresses both global and regional issues related to the transformation of media industries and politics. It is organized by Transitions, a nonprofit organization established to strengthen the professionalism, independence, and impact of the news media in the post-communist countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union, and KEYNOTE, an organization specializing in organizing conferences and events that lead to cutting-edge international encounters, bring new ideas to life, and facilitate a unique networking experience.

TThe conference is supported by the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism at Charles University, the Comparative Interdisciplinary Studies Section (CISS) of International Studies Association (ISA), and is organized in partnership with New York University in Prague (Male namesti 11, Prague 1), which will serve as a host for the conference.


Please see http://toleducation.org/conference-2015 for information about registration and fees or contact Kateřina Kusáková at: kusakova@keynote.cz