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Whose media freedom is being defended? Norm contestation in international media freedom campaigns

Scott, M., Bunce, M., Myers, M. & Fernandez, M. (2022). Whose media freedom is being defended? Norm contestation in international media freedom campaigns. Journal of Communication, doi: 10.1093/joc/jqac045


This paper analyses how international advocacy campaigns approach and define media freedom, and what influences this process. It does this through a two-year case study of the Media Freedom Coalition - an intergovernmental partnership of over 50 countries - that included 55 interviews with key stakeholders, observations, and document analysis. This revelatory case sheds light on how norms of media freedom are constructed and contested on the international stage, and their implications for journalists, media freedom and geo-politics. We show that the Coalition adopted a state-centric, accountability-focussed, and negative understanding of media freedom. This discourse legitimised a narrow, reactive and ‘resource-light’ approach to supporting media freedom, focussed on ‘other’ countries. We argue that critical norm research provides a helpful prism for understanding this Coalition’s operations, and the global politics of media freedom more generally. These findings have important implications for understandings of ‘norm entrepreneurship’, ‘media imperialism’, and ‘media freedom’ itself.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Communication following peer review. The version of record will be available online at:
Publisher Keywords: Media freedom; international norms; critical norm research; discourse analysis; media imperialism; norm entrepreneurship
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
[thumbnail of Whose media freedom is being defended - Author accepted MS.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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