How can a non-democratic ruler provide proper incentives for state bureaucracy? In the absense of competitive elections and separation of powers, the ruler has to gather information either from a centralized agency such as a secret service or a decentralized source such as media. The danger of using a secret service is that it can collude with bureaucrats; overcoming collusion is costly. Free media aggregate information and thus constrain bureaucrats, but might also help citizens to coordinate on actions against the incumbent. We endogenize the ruler’s choice in a dynamic model to argue that free media are less likely to emerge in resource-rich economies where the ruler is less interested in providing incentives to his subordinates. We show that this prediction is consistent with both cross-section and panel data.