Media coverage of anti-government protest movements in the Balkans: Public service media under crossfire.
Paper presented at the workshop at the University of Helsinki organized by the Russian Media Lab in collaboration with the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. Helsinki, Finland.
Abstract: This study examines media coverage of social protests in Montenegro, where the demand for free media was front and center during the 2019 anti-government protests. Relying on the theoretical framework of the protest paradigm, it explores the extent to which media rely on identified marginalization tools to report on protest and explores pressures on journalistic work. Based on in-depth interviews with editors and journalists, the data shed light on the ways in which the political power struggles are manifested via media messages in a polarized media system in the Balkans. In this specific media system, the most important factor that determines media coverage of protests is the clientelistic ties of the news media with the current government. While the government-controlled news media in Montenegro adopted many facets of the protest paradigm when framing the protests, the oppositional and independent media deviated from it instead offering a very supportive narrative. The nuanced accounts from this analysis emphasize the interplay between the pressures coming from the political linkages of news media and journalists strive for professionalism.