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Among all states that exclude their citizens from political participation, e.g. by shielding their law makers from the necessity of periodic elections, none tolerates freedom of expression among its citizens; all systematically censor or suppress their communications.

Is that true? How can I be reasonably confident one way or another, without a lot of research? Please exclude pre-modern societies that are bound by taboos and such. I ask because I need to draft a model constitution for a self-legislating citizenry, and I want to show that freedom of expression is necessary to their purpose (if it really is). I would continue:

Historical evidence thus indicates that freedom of expression is an effective obstacle to systematic and enforced political exclusion. It must therefore be guaranteed if the citizens are to be prudently secure in their capacity for self legislation.

Note: I'm quoting myself as I would write it, if it were true. Edit: the draft text contains back-links to further discussion on this question.

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The answer I eventually found is a qualified yes. I joined two sets of historical data: political regime classifications on the one hand, and indeces of press freedom on the other. The answer is necessarily qualified because there are different degrees of both political exclusion and free speech, different methods of measurement, and the coverage is limited. But looking at the period during which Freedom House published its index of press freedom, 1979-2012, gives a clear enough answer. The number of major independent autocracies varied during this period from a high of roughly 80 to a low of 20. None are classified as having a free press (F) except Nigeria in 1988; at all other times and places, the autocratic regime allowed the press only partial freedom PF, or no freedom at all NF.

See the joined dataset. Notes: (a) An autocracy is here defined as having a Polity IV AUTOC score of 6 to 10 inclusive. This is slightly broader than the conventional definition of a POLITY sum -6 to -10, because it excludes any counter-balancing democratic characteristics. Consequently some of the resulting autocracies might have been defined more conventionally as anocracies. (b) In the years when Freedom House published separate measures for print and broadcast media, there are several cases in which print media are measured as free F while broadcast media are only partly free PF. These are Brazil in 1979 and 80; Panama in 1980; and Bangladesh in 1982. Here these are interpreted as being overall PF, not F. (c) Reporters sans Frontières also published an index during part of this period, 2002-12, but it lacks definite categories of freedom to compare with those of the Freedom House index.

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Germany under Bismarck would be an example of a society in which Bismarck wasn't subject democratic challenge.

The rise of illiberal democracy by Fareed Zakaria uses Hong Kong as a 20th century example of a state without democratic elections that nevertheless respects civil liberties.

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  • Wouldn't Hong Kong be an example of liberal non-democracy rather than illiberal democracy? Mar 7, 2014 at 0:38
  • @Mechanicalsnail That probably depends on if you are talking about during the 200 year lease or not.
    – Phil Lello
    Apr 7, 2016 at 13:33

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