Independent, free and professional media activity in the 21st century is an essential prerequisite for the effective functioning of democracy. It has a significant impact on the quality of democracy and is one of the sources that gives all citizens equal opportunities to assume a clear picture for their political choices. The representation of international events in the Internet media is one of the factors that can influence public and political processes in a country. Today, on February 1st, in Hotel Bergs at 11 a.m. the Centre of East European Policy Studies (CEEPS) presented its latest study “The Portrayal of International Events by the Internet Media in Latvia”. The book examines how Latvian Internet news portals create narratives about international events and analyses how the representation of these events and processes differs in the Latvian and the Russian language Internet media.
The new book was presented by its co-editor, researcher at the University of Latvia (LU) Philosophy and Sociology Institute Mārtiņš Kaprāns, PhD. The findings of the study will also be presented by the CEEPS researcher Māris Cepurītis, associate professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Latvia and Didzis Bērziņš, PhD, researcher at the University of Latvia’s Institute for Social and Political Studies (SPPI). The presentation was moderated by the co-editor of the book, Andis Kudors, Executive director and researcher of the CEEPS.
It is habitual in Latvia to speak about two totally separate informational spaces – those in the Latvian and the Russian languages. However, according to the editors of the book, this study broadens the usual understanding of the boundaries of the Latvian information space relating to international events. The analysis of the contents of the local Internet portals conducted by the study opens opportunity for a more detailed discussion about the commonalities and differences in the Latvian and the Russian language media.
The presentation addressed selected events in the international arena, that have created in recent years and/or continue to resonate in Latvian media: the NATO Warsaw Summit; Russian doping scandal and Brexit; the crisis of asylum seekers in the European Union and the annexation of Crimea; Western sanctions against Russian officials and businessmen in connection with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In all cases, the analysis of six web portals was carried out, namely: LV Delfi, Rus Delfi, LV Tvnet, Rus Tvnet, LA.lv and Vesti.lv.
Although all media analysed in the study regularly uses the materials prepared by news agencies in Latvia, the share of different sources and source materials allows to map out three supposed news clusters: Western information flow (LV Delfi, LV Tvnet, LA.lv), out-sourcers of the pro-Kremlin flow of information (Vesti.lv) and followers of the hybrid stream (Rus Delfi, Rus Tvnet). The latter use a wide variety of sources of information, mostly Russian-language information sites, including Russian state media (RIA Novosti, TASS) and other Russian sources (Lenta.ru, Regnum.ru).
Researchers have also discovered that Russian-language portals are generally more prone to alter the original titles of republished articles, introducing not only stylistic but also ideological changes. Such ideological interventions are more often seen in Vesti.lv publications. The titles in Latvian news are mostly created as a reflection of causes and effects, while the headlines in Russian-language portals more frequently feature context of negative consequences for Western countries, including Latvia.
The editors point out that the differences in the presentation of international events in Latvian news portals must be evaluated in the current political context as well. The publication of unchecked or sometimes biased Russia originated information in Latvian news portals raises the risk of division within the society of Latvia. In addition, the events of 2014-2017 in Ukraine show that the problems of consolidation in a society can increase the challenges to the national security.
Video of the presentation is available here.
The study has been supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia.