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Accepted Paper:

From mass polls to online petitions: Discursive construction of public opinion on the environment in Kazakhstan news media  
Kamilla Askhat (Higher School of Economics)


This study discusses the ways the environmental discourse is constructed with an appeal to public opinion in the Kazakhstan news media. The research methodology is based on N. Fairclough's critical discourse analysis and also includes the classification of environmental discourses of J. Dryzek, where he identifies nine specific discourses that shape political efforts aimed at environmental protection. The conceptualization of public opinion is based on five theoretical approaches proposed by W. Donsbach and M. Traugott: the political-normative tradition of J. Habermas, the survey research tradition of G. Gallup, the functional tradition of N. Luhmann and W. Lippmann, the sociological tradition of E. Ross and the social psychological tradition of E. Noelle-Neumann. This set of theories was taken to trace how and in what strategy public opinion representations are implemented in the Kazakhstan news media. The empirical base consists of 100 articles in the Kazakh and Russian languages on the topic of the environment, containing an appeal to public opinion, from 10 local news media (KazInform, TengriNews, Altyn Orda, InBusiness, Forbes Kazakhstan, Azattyk, BaigeNews, InformBuro, Lada, Toppress) published between 2022 to 2023. The main topics covered in the environmental agenda by the Kazakhstan news media were revealed: Water resources, Energy, Waste disposal, Biodiversity, and Heavy industry. Following the described thematic distribution, characteristic environmental discourses were recorded. Thus, Water Resources are based on the discourse of sustainable development, Waste Disposal on the discourse of administrative rationalism, Biodiversity on the discourse of green policy, Heavy Industry on the discourse of limitations and survival, and the topic of Energy on several discourses, including discourses of economic rationalism, environmental modernization, and democratic pragmatism. Further, the main ways of presenting public opinion and the specific types of assessments on each topic are identified. As the results show the dominant strategy for representing public opinion is experts' comments, they are found in all thematic blocks and have ambivalent value judgments. Alternative ways of presenting public opinion, such as online petitions and protest movements, were also fixed, they are reflected in the thematic blocks of Energy and Heavy Industry. The key problem of the research comes from the issue of the instrumentalization of public opinion in the media and its discursive construction within the environmental agenda by the Kazakhstan news media.

Panel MED1
Shaping Narratives in Central Asian Media: Strategies and Manipulation
  Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -