Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

AUSTERITY - THE TRIGGER FOR WAVES OF CONTENTION IN ROMANIA. Representation of the Romanian Street Protests of January-February 2012 in the International Press

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

AUSTERITY - THE TRIGGER FOR WAVES OF CONTENTION IN ROMANIA. Representation of the Romanian Street Protests of January-February 2012 in the International Press

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper deals with the international media coverage of the Romanian protests from January-February 2012. The purpose is to analyze whether the events managed to transcend the borders of national representation in the media. Our hypothesis is that, due to the fact that Romania is not considered to be a major player in world politics and economy, the representation of the social protests in foreign publications will be mainly informative, describing the series of events as a consequence of the economic hardship and integrating this social movement in the wave of protests which occurred all over Europe, after the economic crisis of 2008. Results of a combined approach to the analysis of newspaper content - integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods - suggest that the international media depicts endemic corruption and public discontent as the underlying profound causes for the protests, where austerity was the trigger.

Keywords: Romanian protests, international media coverage, content analysis, corruption, public discontent, austerity measures.

1. Introduction

Social protests that took place in Romania in January and February 2012 raised several questions about this country's civic engagement, generally described as being apathetic and unorganized. Was this movement a spontaneous one, a normal reaction to wage cuts provoked by the economic crisis? Or do the reasons and motivations behind this movement, which took over most of the major cities in the country, underline a deeper cleavage between the political class and the unsatisfied citizens? Should this movement be placed under the simple definition of "social demands" or should it be taken a step further, questioning the relationship between the political field and the electorate and their way of understanding political roles, which leads to a trial of "redefining" and "re-organizing the public sphere"?

Beyond the obvious results of this Romanian social movement - and we are talking here about the government's resignation a few weeks after the protests started and the government's decision to give up the implementation of its health care reform; etc. - the purpose of this article is to analyze how and if the Romanian public discontent managed to transcend the borders of national representation and what was the message sent on a global level. Romanian national media consecrated legion of articles debating upon the goals of this movement, emphasizing the civic reawakening and the novelty of the political claims. But what was the counterpart in terms of media coverage in the international press?

Our hypothesis is that, due to the fact that Romania is not considered to be a major player in world politics and economy, the representation of the social protests in foreign publications will be mainly informative, describing the series of events as a consequence of the economic hardship and integrating this social movement in the wave of protests which occurred all over Europe, after the economic crisis of 2008. This paper is, hence, an attempt to explore the representation of the relationship citizens - public institutions in Romania during the protests of January-February 2012, in the international press. For the purpose of the present article, we decided to use the technique of content analysis - both quantitative and qualitative - over a corpus comprised by articles concerning our subject published in major international newspapers in France, United Kingdom and USA, for a period of a month (10th of January - 10th of February 2012). The selection was made upon criteria of circulation strength, impact on an international public and upon linguistic constraints.

Even if we are dealing with "protests", the purpose of this paper is rather analyzing reporting on protests, than the protests themselves. In what concerns the paper's scope, it will, hence, be distinguished from what is called 'Protest Event Analysis (PEA)' that is used to "map, analyze and interpret the occurrence and properties of large numbers of protest by means of content analysis [. …

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