Journalists under attack: self-censorship as an unperceived method for avoiding hostility
Keywords:self-censorship, journalistic role performance, journalism, attacks on journalism
This study investigates journalists’ self-censorship and introduces a phenomenon of unperceived collective self-censorship that demands a combination of detection methods. We conducted a content analysis of media critique texts (N=156) that discuss attacks on Estonian journalism. These results were combined with the content analysis of journalistic roles in the news (N=2409) and a survey on journalists (N=99) and completed with semi-structured interviews (N=14). The findings showed that accusations against journalists were frequently related to discourses regarding journalists’ interventionist or watchdog roles. Juxtaposing these results with quantitative data, it became evident that when aspects of interventionist and watchdog roles were criticized in the media texts, the performance of these roles decreased in the news. However, journalists’ self-assessment does not show the perception of this change. We argue that self-censorship was created unknowingly within the newsroom. External pressures – such as politically motivated attacks on journalism – may promote unperceived self-censorship.
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