Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap date:3-4 Februari 2014
This article analyzes the issue of ‘Syria-warriors’ in Flanders and the Netherlands as a preliminary step to a multi-level analysis of societal discourse on integration-related issues and the construction of social capital in online and offline networks, with an emphasis on Moroccan and Turkish minorities in the Low Countries. The aim of the overall research is to combine content analysis with social network analysis by looking into frames and counter frames in the mainstream media alongside social media, as well as into the social connectedness among discussion participants.
The issue of young Dutch and Flemish men leaving to fight in the Syrian civil war has received considerable attention in the press. This was especially the case in Flanders, where two native Islam-converts, Brian Mulder and Jejoen Bontinck, left the country to fight alongside the Syrian opposition in January and February 2013 respectively. The comparison between the press portrayal in the Netherlands and Flanders and the coping strategies of the different governments is particularly interesting. Reporting on issues related to Muslim terrorism and radicalization has been shown to function as a prototype according to which journalists interpret related conflicts. The enduring character of the conflict and its wide coverage make it particularly suitable for analysis.
This paper addresses the framing of the ‘Syria-warriors’ in an inductive, qualitative study focusing on the discursive shifts in the frames used to interpret the issue over a period of seven months, starting in February 2013, just before the news of the departure of Brian and Jejoen reached the media. Recurrent frames are compared by examining articles published in quality and popular newspapers in Flanders and the Netherlands: 121 articles from ‘De Volkskrant’ versus ‘De Telegraaf’ in the Netherlands, and 164 articles from ‘De Standaard’ versus ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ in Flanders.
The framing analysis was conducted from a constructionist perspective, which entails the reconstruction of frame packages. Theoretically speaking, culture is viewed as the foundation of knowledge, meaning, and understanding of events in the world, the joint stock of frames in culture constituting the link between news production and news consumption. Preliminary results indicate that the dominant frame presents Islam as a source of contamination and of radicalization, more so in Flanders than in the Netherlands.