Not only governments in power for years can become the object of public dissent. Newly appointed ones can too. Moldova became the most recent example of this when the president of the former Soviet republic named Pavel Filip the new prime minister of the country last week. The protests, however, have gone beyond that, with people now demanding snap elections and changes to the constitution.
Moldavians’ discontent with established political power is not news in itself. The spring of 2015 marked the beginning of a period of political turmoil in the country, after Moldavians learned about the theft of 1 billion dollars from three banks. Demonstrations between then and now have taken on different forms, from peaceful rallies to sit-in camps (still in place after five months); from storming of the parliament last Wednesday to peaceful protests again over the weekend.
Such evolutions is one of the things we are trying to capture in the first two stages of the Screening Protest project. The work involves answer questions such as: when did the anti-government protests in Syria or Yemen, for example, became armed conflicts, according to the media we analyse? When did protesters become rebels or opposition fighters in the media reports? What are the differences and similarities between the ways in which different television channels captured the development of certain events over the years?
With counter-demonstrations in support of the new prime minister expected to take place this week, the situation in Moldova highlights another issue we have encountered in the coding process: how to code when two different demonstrations are reported in the same news item? While routines have been established to signpost such cases for reliability checks at the overview mapping stage of our work, these items will be analysed more closely – and their complexity embraced – as we move forward into the framing and narrative stages of Study 1, ‘Mediated Protest of Today’.
Pro-Kurdish protests took place in central London this Monday, not far from Number 10 Downing Street. They were triggered by the official visit of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but the reason for the protest was the Turkish offensive in the Kurdish areas of the country, launched after the government ended its ceasefire with the PPK last summer. Unlike yesterday’s protesters, neither the US nor the EU seem keen on upsetting Ankara more than necessary, given the current situation and ongoing refugee crisis.
Of the seven global media broadcasters studied in the Screening Protest project, only Russia Today (RT) reported Monday’s protest. While it was neither mass nor particularly important, the fact that RT covered the protest and the others did not is the sort of difference our research pays attention to. We are interested in whether there are significant differences between global news broadcasters, not just when it comes to how protests are reported, but also which ones are represented in newscasts and which go unreported. Comparative research makes this possible. Ultimately the task is to think about what such differences mean, and how they might matter.
The twist in this case is that, perhaps surprisingly, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency also covered the protests (along with other Turkish media). RT picked up on the fact that Anadolu Agency reported a UK official had (unofficially) apologized for the protests, and carried a story about the apology on its website yesterday. Although it is not something our research can establish (as we study texts rather than interview journalists), it is interesting to reflect on the possible motives behind these reports. What does an apology mean in this context?