How could the dictator of a poor to middle-income country without any mineral wealth nor strategic position, stay out of the headlines of the big western media?

The assumption is that the dictator doesn't want to change i.e. it still wants to continue oppressing people, don't allow free press, ban opposition parties etc. The dictator only just wants to stay out of the front page news. The less the big western media talks about dictator's country the better.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you read a lot about Belarus in the news? Ask Lukaschenko, he can answer your question. $\endgroup$
    – Fl.pf.
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ "How could the dictator of a poor to middle-income country without any mineral wealth nor strategic position, stay out of headlines of the big western media?" – By not having any mineral wealth nor strategic position. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2017 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ Western media barely mention conflicts in many countries such as Yemen , South Sudan. Your leader should not worry too much. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 3, 2017 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Is this a question about North-Korea? $\endgroup$
    – user26494
    Jul 3, 2017 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, do you guys often see news about all those horrible dictators in Africa? And does anyone remember a lot of headlines about the guerrilla war going on there? And how often do we read any messages about violence and terrorist attacks in those countries? Lesson: If you're a poor country, you don't need to try to stay off headlines. Rich countries won't write about you unless you do something really crazy. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2017 at 9:13

8 Answers 8


There a few "no-nos" for a dictator. As long as he's following those rules, everything is Ok.

  1. Don't anger western nations. Better off, put a good friendly face. Don't harbor terrorists or drug lords. Don't make alliances with Russia or China unless you are bordering them. Don't even think of getting any weapons of mass destruction.

  2. Don't create too much mess. Any wars, or internal genocide would create a stream of refugees, which would turn the media spotlight on your country.

  3. Don't mess with international tourists. Make sure they do not get imprisoned on questionable charges and end up in a coma.

There are so many dictatorships in the world that follow these rules and enjoy their quiet existence.

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    $\begingroup$ The Saudis are an excellent example of this. While they're very dictatorial, they don't abuse it much and are very welcoming, even protective of tourists. $\endgroup$
    – Muz
    Jul 3, 2017 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Muz tourism to Saudi is strictly controlled and limited. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jul 4, 2017 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Muz there's actually a lot of terrorism-sponsoring from the saudis. THEIR trick is "having lots of oil" and "being a long-time ally in a powder-keg area with valuable ressources". AKA "too useful to look closely at their misdeeds". $\endgroup$
    – Syndic
    Jul 4, 2017 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget Kazakhstan you never hear anything about it but they have a dictator as well and not as much wealth as Saudi. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 4, 2017 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ Saudia Arabia is a bad example. They get quite a lot of screentime. And while politicians leave them alone for political reasons, the Saudis receive constant flag from NGOs. Rather look at all those dictatorships in Africa nobody ever talks about. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Jul 4, 2017 at 12:36

It doesn't matter, nobody cares about you.

All you have to do is not invade your neighbours, that's the only thing that garners international military attention if you don't have oil and don't have nuclear ambitions.

You can murder your population if you like, nobody will do anything as long as you keep within your own borders. Sure you'll make some international headlines, but that's about all that'll happen.

Never again they said, but it happened over and over again.

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    $\begingroup$ @Dajanon, you can either do as the UAE does and present a sanitised version of the country or just not allow tourists $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jul 3, 2017 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Dajanon There are several countries in South-East Asia that depend heavily on tourism and until very recently their brutal dictators got hardly any attention - especially because all those journalist-type middle class people that consume mass media went there on vacation and they are not interested in reading how much harm they are doing in the world. It might be actually good for you given the right circumstances $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 3, 2017 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ "You can murder your population if you like, nobody will do anything as long as you keep within your own borders. Sure you'll make some international headlines, but that's about all that'll happen." ... in other words, Sri Lanka $\endgroup$
    – a20
    Jul 4, 2017 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ @a20 and Cambodia, Argentina, Rwanda, the list goes on $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jul 4, 2017 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaibis, he had oil, Syria also has oil $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:58

Most dictatorships are never mentioned by the media; so you don't have to do anything.

Look at this list of list of countries by democracy type, scroll down to the list of Authoritarian regimes. I'm betting there's countries there you've never even heard of, let alone seen in the media.

The truth is that the big Western media cares little, if at all, about dictatorships so unless you rock the boat or have strategic significance you will be rarely if ever mentioned. Murdering and oppressing your own people is not enough to catch the attention of the West.

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    $\begingroup$ "I'm betting there's countries there you've never even heard of" One doesn't have to be spectacularly well-informed to have heard of all the countries in the world. And most of them crop up from time to time in the media. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2017 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ I was baffled when you said "democracy type" and then mentioned "authoritarian regimes." I much prefer the term your link actually uses "democracy index." Although they might be misapplying the term, anyway, as I'm pretty sure even their highest ranking ones actually use some for of representative republic. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Jul 3, 2017 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Authoritarian is not the same as a dictatorship. $\endgroup$
    – Communisty
    Jul 4, 2017 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Harper When I went through the list, I found that I'd heard of all the countries mentioned and that I had at least vague memories of most of them being in the news at some point in the last 10-15 years. Mauritania has had a couple of coups; Jordan is often mentioned in the news; Niger was linked to Saddam Hussein's alleged attempts to procure uranium; Armenia had a war with Azerbaijan after the collapse of the USSR (admittedly, more like 25 years ago); ... Can't think of anything for several of the smaller African states, such as Gabon, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, etc. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2017 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby either way, you heard about it and that was the end of it. I'd say that a one-off mention is the same as staying out of the headlines with as much content the major media puts out. As long as you don't do anything in addition to what atrocity was briefly mentioned I'd say you're fine. I like the list though, nice to know good ole US is flawed democracy according to wikipeeds. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2017 at 13:42

I assume you speak of foreign media as as a dictator you already taken care of your country media.

And the answer to "what could you do" is: nothing. You don't care. No one is giving a flying flock about your country already. Because why would they do? You only export some bananas or potatoes and that's all. Your country is in no one field of interest.

Source: Swaziland and other multiple African countries. Burma, Do we know what is going on in Nicaragua?


Yes, it is the Eddie Izzard theory of Dictatorship: "You want to kill your own people? We've been trying to do that for years, mate, help yourself."

Basically don't make waves. If you're not invading, saber rattling, or running your government so poorly that foreign aid is necessary, you're not going to cause enough issues to make it to Western Media (especially the States, which have a reputation of being isolated from reporting world events. If your luck is terrible, you might be devistated by a natural disaster on a day where a pop culture icon hasn't divorced another icon, died, or otherwise made a fool of him/herself and they need to fill the vaccume with something. If you're on for more than a minute, it's particularly bad under those conditions.). I am curious about your country's economics, specifically what goods and services allow you to be a benevolent or irrelevent dictator.


The smart dictator minimizes corruption. The happier the population is the less the need to oppress them, and removing corruption and arbitrariness from everyday life goes a long way of doing that.

In order to keep western media happily ignoring you you should also try to avoid declaring for any controversial political ideology. Socialism/Communism is a big no. Full on neo-liberal laissez faire capitalism may create too big social rifts which may cause unrest, which in turn causes unwanted attention. (Also, there are western media who'd love to poke a hole in that.) Aim for some watered down social liberal approach. Make sure people are well fed and have jobs to go to. Skim of the top percent of GNP into your private bank account.

Try to present yourself as a man of the people. Don't live too opulently if your people starves. Always strive to make sure you don't get too greedy. Play the long game. You want to retire a billionaire by 50 or 60, not get strung up by your intestines in a gibbet on Liberation Square. The less unrest you have internally the less interest foreign media will have in you.

Now, if you've already messed up and installed a corrupt regime where the poor starve and your sons and nephews drive golden sports cars in the street and claim droit a seigneur with every comely maiden don't panic. There are steps to be taken.

1) Bite the bullet, you'll catch flak in the media but it's time you let some heads roll. Preferably not your relatives, they can be kept in check in some less drastic way. But pick a few choice corrupt officials and have them hung. (Alternatively imprisoned, but who deals in half measures these days?)

2) Declare yourself for liberal market economy and open up your country to foreign investors. Liberalize the internal market and allow people to start small businesses.

3) Take steps to reduce every day corruption, especially when it comes to foreign investors.

4) Declare the new era to have begun. Regret that the transition period from the old regime was so rough. Blame someone else, have him or her hung. Promise free elections as soon as the situation has stabilized itself and your country is ready for western style democracy, then start planning your exit.

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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, maximizing corruption means the dictator gets all the wealth, and can use it to bribe anyone and everyone they need to. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Jul 5, 2017 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed, and that usually works for a bit. But well... Ghadaffi had all the wealth, but did it help him away from the noose in the end? (Well, thechnically he was shot and sodomized with a bayonet, but you get what I mean.) $\endgroup$
    – Doomfrost
    Jul 5, 2017 at 10:38

Be next to other authoritarian countries. I present you Kazakhstan- despite being the 6th largest country in the world and having some of largest petroleum projects in the world- unless you just internet checked it over 99% of the population of most major countries in the world would have not have a clue what goes on there- beyond it is a dictatorship maybe- who is the president? What is his political organisation called? The great majority of the "stans" are highly authoritarian. I challenge you to find one reference to it in any major paper in the last year. Note knowing the names of all the countries is not the same as knowing all the countries even briefly. Kazakhstan probably has strategic value given it is so large and bordered by Russia.

  • $\begingroup$ Kazakhstan is a huge military partner for the US and a great deal of our Afghanistan basing happens there. It was even moreso when Russia allowed our military to unload in St. Petersburg and transit Russia. It also hosts Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is the primary support for the International Space Station. It is one of three members in the other EU, made relevant by Ukraine events being about Russia trying to pull Ukraine into it. Semi-common knowledge. Of course I would have known none of this, but for Borat! $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2017 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Challenge accepted. "This is the town President Nursultan Nazarbayev built. In power since 1989, he won the last “election” two years ago with an eyebrow-raising 97.7% approval vote. With the lifelong title of “Leader of the Nation”, he is also the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Services and chairman of pretty much everything else." Less than two months ago in the Guardian. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2017 at 6:30

Media is also a weapon, called propaganda. They could be used to takeover government. Peaceful Evolution is an example Important club is "without any mineral wealth nor strategic position".

As long as you do 2 thing:

  1. Do not hurt other nation (like invade, or kill their people...) => no retaliate counter attack from others
  2. Yourself have no value. "without any mineral wealth nor strategic position". => no one want to take you.

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