Western propaganda models reconsidered : the "Catherine Whell" of censorship circumvention in developing world internal conflicts
Frederick, Howard H. and De Alwis, Chandrika K. 2009, Western propaganda models reconsidered : the "Catherine Whell" of censorship circumvention in developing world internal conflicts, Asian journal of communication, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 59-79.
This study is a deep-text analysis of military censorship applied to the national press in the Sri Lankan conflict. We examine press coverage of two Sri Lankan military operations, namely Operation Jayasikurui (1997) and the Capture of Elephant Pass (2000), to identify patterns of signification that help us construct a novel theory of conflict reporting under censorship within the context of ethnic, intrastate conflict. Our study shows that Sri Lankan newspapers, while abiding by censorship regulations, contradictorily also manoeuvred around these regulations as if censorship did not exist. Noteworthy were the censorship circumvention techniques that were used. For example, journalists taught readers how to ‘read’ blank space. They used commentary to educate readers how to read the straight news. They used conflict frames to overcome bias towards official viewpoints. They used multi-source confirmation to avoid pre-dominance of official views. They used respectful words rather than demonised opponents. Great attention was paid to victims of the conflict, destruction of life and property, and civil society. Our findings do not accord well with previous theoretical models of the media role in society and of press censorship under conflict. The Sri Lankan press is highly intertwined within its cultural context and follows its own value system. We propose the ‘Catherine Wheel Model of Censorship Circumvention’ about press behaviour in times of internal conflict. Our model attempts to explain internal conflict within the developing world context in which the press system is based deeply in culture and is more accustomed to circumventing censorship than obeying it.
Field of Research
190301 Journalism Studies
Socio Economic Objective
970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
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