Representations of the refugee crisis in the Russian media



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Tartu Ülikool


The current refugee crisis in the European Union already represents the largest movement of people that Europe has seen since the end of the Second World War. It is impossible to ignore the role of journalism in influencing public opinion and the elite’s political attitude towards asylees and immigrants. Media can set agendas, frame debates, facilitate decision-making process, and provide real-time information on ethnic relations. The Russian media also takes part in shaping public opinion and raising public awareness towards the refugee crisis in Europe. The objective of this study is to establish what is being written about the refugee crisis in Russian print media – what are the discourse narratives, including frames, of refugees and the refugee crisis in the Russian media. The central research question is - How do Russian quality newspapers portray refugee crisis in Europe? Answering the main research question, the method of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of media text will be applied. Theoretical and methodological frames of this research are predominantly based on Teun A. van Dijk’s earlier works on discourse. The analysis is based on the assumption that the closer a newspaper’s affiliation appears to governmental structures, the more the narrative reflects the ownership structures; while when the media appears further from the governmental structures the explanatory power of ownership declines, and the relative power of editorial position and specialization increases. For the purpose of this research four Russian major daily nation-wide quality broadsheet newspapers – Kommersant, Vedomosti, Novaya Gazeta, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta – are selected. Newspapers are analysed based on the content of their websites on the topics regarding refugee crisis in Europe, during January 2016 — December 2016, which comprises of 148 articles in total. Within the discourses of four analysed newspapers, there are seven most common frames of refugees that are highlighted during the analysis: Refugees as a source of crimes and terrorism, Refugees as a threat for the social stability and political security, Refugees are not welcomed in Russia, Refugees as victims, Refugees are not welcomed in Europe, Helping refugees, Struggling refugees, Refugees as illegal immigrants, Refugees as abusers of the international law. Despite multiple similarities, each of the analysed newspapers dealt with the refugee crisis issues differently which reflects in the frequency of publications, utilization of the information sources, and emphasis on different ideas within the narratives. In light of the outcomes of this thesis, further research can focus on exam of similarities and differences in refugee discourses of different types of Russian media; what kind of visual and linguistic technics and approaches have been utilized in order to create certain framing patterns. Further research may also be directed at the exploration of impact of the media discourse of refugee crisis on the audience.