M E D I A W A T C H    S E R I E S
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Media Preferences and Perceptions
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Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Brankica Petković
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Brankica Petković, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Iztok Jurančič, Marko Prpič, Roman Kuhar
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Mitja Velikonja
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Roman Kuhar
Media Representations of Homosexuality
Dragan Petrovec
Violence in the Media
Majda Hrženjak, Ksenija H. Vidmar, Zalka Drglin, Valerija Vendramin, Jerca Legan
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Gojko Bervar
Freedom of Non-accountability
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Serving the State or the Public
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Marko Milosavljević
Media Policy in Slovenia in the 1990s
Breda Luthar, Tonči Kuzmanić, Srečo Dragoš, Mitja Velikonja, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić
The Victory of the Imaginary Left
Matevž Krivic, Simona Zatler
Freedom of the Press and Personal Rights
Karmen Erjavec, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Barbara Kelbl
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Tonči Kuzmanić
Hate-speech in Slovenia
Darren Purcell
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Breda Luthar
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The Pragmatics of Legitimation

Karmen Erjavec, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Barbara Kelbl
We About the Roma
Discriminatory Discourse in the Media in Slovenia

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Today the mass media are the key compilers of the agenda setting the importance of topics that are publicly discussed, that is to say, the topics that people consider or talk about. Through the choice of topics, sources, genre, language and style, the media daily construct the image of “us” as the representatives of a majority population, and of “them” as the representatives of a minority. They impart only specific cultural patterns, add new meanings to them and, finally, make them common-sensical, universal and exclusively correct.

This study analyzes the Slovenian media writing about the Roma in autumn 1997 when the villagers of Maline set up a village watch to prevent the settlement of a Romani family who bought a house in their village. The prevalent mood of the coverage could be summed up with a single word - “problems”. Moreover, when writing about the Roma, the media invariably use the expressions “Romani issues” or “Romani problems”. The media are not interested in their difficulties unless they turn into a conflict that also threatens to affect the majority population. Out of 131 accounts in newspapers, on television and radio, only one falls short of our hypothesis that the media write about ethnic minorities only when they are involved in some conflict.
Journalistic writing about the Roma rests on the assumption that the Roma are ‘different from us’. Their differentness is so ultimate and self-evident that it does not need any further explanation either. Using special techniques, like stereotypes and generalization, the media concentrate on particular “negative traits” of the Roma, for example cultural differences, deviation and the apparent threat they pose to the majority population. Thematically they could be divided into the following categories:

  1. The Roma are the protagonists of negatively evaluated acts (crime) which represent a threat to the social order. In line with this, the Roma are represented as aggressive and dangerous. The prevalent assertion in the media coverage is that the Roma are (by nature) thieves.
  2. The Roma threaten our social and economic interests, thus representing a threat to economic order. They are idle and lazy, they live on social assistance (which, in the opinion of the majority population, is higher than their wages would be if they worked).
  3. The Roma have a different culture, mentality and behavior which are not in accordance with the norms of the majority population, hence this poses a threat to our cultural order. The Roma differ from the majority population by their looks (skin color), they have a different culture, values and habits, they are unadaptable and their natality is too high.

This concocted media image of the Roma is so powerful that in the coverage analyzed here, the Roma only rarely appear as concrete individuals. Instead, the media assessment of their deeds rests on the characteristics that are generally attributed to the Roma by the majority. In this way the media prevent their audiences from identifying with a Romani protagonist or harboring doubt about a clear-cut division between good Slovenians and bad Roma.

With specific regard to the coverage of ethnic issues the power of the media is even greater, since there is a shortage of alternative sources of information. The media coverage of minorities, as a special example of underprivileged communication opportunities, exclusively relies on the sources of the majority population, as is shown in this study. Therefore special media exclusion and isolation couples the spatial, economic, cultural and social ghettoization of a minority.