Journalistic Resistance to Russian Authoritarian Disinformation: The Case of Media Dissidents in the Russia- Ukraine Wars of 2014 & 2022
The Russia-Ukraine crisis is an ethno-religious and geopolitical crisis with a long history. It flared up once again in 1991 when Ukraine became independent following the fall of the Soviet Union. The arrival of Putin to power in Russia and his 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula sparked a crisis in which disinformation became one of the main weapons. Journalists working for Russian- and Russian government-affiliated media were required to echo Kremlin propaganda and disinformation (both concepts are used interchangeably in this study) on the crisis. However, some journalists resisted this demand. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to a repetition of Putin's use of disinformation to justify the invasion. Journalists were again expected to spread Kremlin disinformation to further Kremlin goals. This thesis explores the use of propaganda and disinformation in the Russia-Ukraine wars of 2014 and 2022, using as a case study of two Russian government media journalists, Liz Wahl and Marina Ovsyannikova, who publicly resisted Kremlin propaganda. The study also explores the role of gender in the Russian journalistic field and examines female resistance to war propaganda in the context of journalistic paradigm repair. Finally, the thesis examines how Al Jazeera (Qatar), the BBC, and CNN portrayed the resistance. The study was carried out within the framework of the following theoretical perspectives: gender and international journalism, journalistic fields, journalistic ethics, and journalistic paradigm repair. The study uses historical and textual analyses to explore the resistance activities of female journalists and international media portrayals of that resistance. It was found that, in the Russian journalistic field, women journalists were prominent against authoritarian disinformation and criticizing governments. These two female journalists, Liz Wahl and Marina Ovsyannikova were willing to publicly resist authoritarian disinformation because of their journalistic ethics and in defense of the journalistic paradigm, despite the consequences they faced. On the other hand, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN covered the resistance extensively in support of their colleagues and in solidarity with media freedom.
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