A new article by London School of Economics and Political Science has been published in European Journal of Political Economy
This paper studies the role of free media in how governments and the public responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. We first document the presence of policy and behavioural responsiveness during the early phase of the pandemic. Using a panel data of daily COVID-19 deaths, lockdown policies, and mobility changes in 155 countries, we find that governments were more likely to impose a lockdown, and citizens to reduce their mobility, as the initial number of deaths increased. To measure the role of media freedom on responsiveness given endogeneity in death reporting, we simulate deaths from a calibrated SEIR model as an instrument for reported deaths. Using this approach, we find evidence that the presence of free media mattered for the timing of early responses to COVID-19. Responsiveness to deaths was limited to citizens in free-media countries, and accounted for 40% of the difference in lockdown decision and mobility changes between free-media and censored-media countries. In support of the role of free media, we show that differences in responsiveness are not explained by a range of other country characteristics such as the level of income, education or democracy. We also find evidence that citizens with access to free media were better informed about the pandemic and had more responsive levels of online searches about COVID-19, supporting the view that free media served to inform the public on the risks of COVID-19.
Find the full article here!