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Censorship and Alternative Media: How harsher regulations inspire resistance
“According to Freedom House (2015), about 86% of the world’s population resides in partially or fully censored mass media environments, making citizen political communication in censored media systems the global norm” (Behrouzian, Nisbet, Dal, & Çarkoğlu, 2016, p. 1). A great deal of communication research focuses on relatively open environments; therefore, it is important to find out how motivated resistance and alternate communication methods allow new ideas to enter societies experiencing restrictions. Journalists are often subjected to sanctions, intimidation, and other forms of punishment by governments around the world. However, in the eyes of viewers, perception of availability is more important than the supply or institutional views on said media content. It is important to study the effects of censorship and the alternatives for motivated citizens (Nisbet & Stoycheff, 2013). A study titled “Resisting Censorship: How Citizens Navigate Closed Media Environments,” summarized in this assignment, explored how individuals reacted to media censorship. This area of study is relevant given big tech’s recent crackdown on various alternative media pundits in the U.S.A. It may be wise for citizens in the west to prepare themselves for navigating a restricted system.
“If we conceptualize censorship as a threat to media freedom based on citizens’ assessments of their media supply and demand, then reactance theory provides a basis for understanding how such assessments may increase the likelihood of using online information sources as an alternative to mass media. Reactance theory was first introduced by Brehm (as cited in Behrouzain, et al. 2016) as a motivational state, and posits that individuals behave in a manner that attempts to maximize the satisfaction of threatened needs” (Behrouzian, et al. 2016, p. 3). It is probable most media resistance will occur through alternative media outlets, which provide counter arguments and additional narratives. Additionally, the use of social media and encrypted private communications may occur (Behrouzian, et al. 2016).
Turkey provided context for these theories and actions. The nation has an organized media environment, with access to contemporary digital technologies such as smartphones and the internet; additionally, citizens have active heritage media like television, radio, and newspapers. The Turkish government has moved towards greater censorship on official sources, while the internet still remains relatively open (Puddington, 2015). Roughly 50% of the population accesses the internet, with 88% of those individuals using Facebook totaling 46.3 million users, one of the largest user bases for the platform. However, there is still a large section of the population relying on traditional media; this is a key factor, as alternative media created by citizens and independent journalists is distributed online. The study surveyed 568 households; respondents included Turkish men (56.6%) and woman (42.7%), some of whom were employed and others who were not. Cultural variations included a subgroup of self-identified Kurdish individuals (14.5%). Overall, 90% of the participants were Sunni Muslim, with 10% identifying as “other” or “non-religious.” Political opinions were gauged by a favorability rating for recently elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former Prime Minister and leader of the governing Justice and Development Party, and the current Prime Minister and leader of the AKP Ahmet Davutoglu. The internet usage amongst participants was consistent with previous statistics. The two part study surveyed individuals' exposure to mainstream and online alternative sources, as well as the individual’s perception of the threat level posed by media censorship (Behrouzian, et al. 2016).
Upon reviewing the information collected, researchers discovered that as the perception of media freedom decreased, the demand for resistance increased. This illustrates that a highly regulated society and media contributes directly to increased online activity, where individuals seek alternatives; in other words, censorship fuels alternative media. Respondents who perceived censorship as a threat accessed more information online from alternative sources; much of this was in the sphere of political discourse. By exploring these statistics, the research team identified boundary conditions that motivate resistance behavior, while also challenging assumptions regarding Turkish people’s awareness of censorship (Behrouzian, et al. 2016).
The team recognized that the study, which was limited to Turkish citizens, is not generalizable; further research in other environments is necessary to expand understanding in this area of research. By proving the association between censorship and resistance in the media and uncovering how citizens navigate through closed environments, it is possible to promote media freedom on a policy level (Behrouzian, et al. 2016).
Behrouzian, E. C., Nisbet, A., Dal, & Çarkoğlu A., (2016). Resisting censorship: How citizens
navigate closed media environments. International Journal of Communication 10 (2016), 4345–4367
Nisbet, E. C., & Stoycheff, E. (2013). Let the people speak: A multilevel model of supply and
demand for press freedom. Communication Research, 40(5), 720–741.
Puddington, A. (2015). Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist. Freedom House.
Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world-2015/discarding-democracy-return-iron-fist