Thesis: Prerogatives of interpretation in foreign policy. An Analysis of French and German Foreign News Reporting on the 2011 Upheavals in North Africa.
[German working title: Außenpolitische Deutungshoheiten. Eine Untersuchung deutscher und französischer Auslandsberichterstattung zu den Umbrüchen von 2011 in Nordafrika.]
When it comes to the field of foreign policy in Western democracies media and political elites are engaged in a complex and somehow ambiguous power relationship. In the national realm journalists and foreign policy makers share, not least due to common socialization processes, certain country-specific and culturally-embedded notions of what constitutes a “meaningful” external action. At the same time both camps are structurally divided and functional roles in the political and economic system differ. Also, professional routines and ideological leanings can turn them, occasionally, into competitors or even adversaries. My thesis explores these dynamics by comparing foreign news reporting in French and German print media on the seemingly unexpected regime breakdowns in Tunisia and Egypt as well as the military intervention in Libya in spring 2011. For this purpose I depart from approaches in communication science theory which assume that, with regard to world news, journalists predominantly stick to elite opinion, a mechanism coined by Lance Bennett’s as “indexing” (1990). My intention is to show to which extent - in the European context - foreign policy makers and the press find themselves in a competition over interpretation on a major moment of change in the Arab world and how this is infused by conflictual frames of national (foreign) political culture.