Journalists under attack: self-censorship as an unperceived method for avoiding hostility




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.

Author Biographies

Marju Himma-Kadakas, University of Tartu

Dr. Marju Himma-Kadakas is a researcher of journalism studies at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her research combines studies on news work, journalistic skills, and engagement of young audiences. She also has 12 years of experience as a cross-platform science journalist. (Postal address: Lossi 36-226, 51003 Tartu, Estonia. Corresponding e-mail:

Signe Ivask, Masaryk University

Dr. Signe Ivask is a postdoctoral researcher at Masaryk University, the Czech Republic. She also works part-time at the University of Tartu, institute of social studies as a journalism researcher and lecturer. Her research interests include attacks against journalist, reactions to attacks (self-censorship, directing), working routines in the newsroom and media sociology; also local journalism and digital challenges. She has expertise as a print journalist and as a freelancer since 2015.
(Postal address: Joštova 218/10, 602 00 Brno, the Czech Republic. E-mail:


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How to Cite

Himma-Kadakas, M., & Ivask, S. (2023). Journalists under attack: self-censorship as an unperceived method for avoiding hostility. Central European Journal of Communication, 15(3(32), 359-378.



Scientific Papers