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Free speech versus defence of the nation? The media as sources of national insecurity in Ukraine Joanna Szostek

The media can cause concern in the context of national security: they are described as potential tools and targets of attack that can be ‘weaponised', and as a space where ‘information war' is waged. Governments may sanction or shut down media that are deemed a security threat, but the rationale for taking such action deserves careful consideration, given the tension between media restrictions and the democratic principle of free speech. This article scrutinizes the security rationale for restrictions imposed by Ukraine on Russian and ‘pro-Russian' media from 2014. When justifying the media restrictions, Ukrainian officials highlighted the threat of media content both distorting perceptions of reality and weakening the foundations of Ukrainian nationhood. We therefore analyse survey data to investigate whether use of the banned media was, as feared, associated with divergent views in these areas. We find that use of banned media was linked to mistaken beliefs about the veracity of news headlines, both true and false; it was also associated with lower support for democracy in Ukraine (a key national constitutional value). This evidence from the Ukrainian case informs our discussion about the media's impact on national (in)security and rationales for media restrictions in democratic contexts more broadly.