Protest and Accountability without the Press: The Press, Politicians, and Civil Society in Chile

Sallie Hughes, Claudia Mellado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We examine political news in Chilean newspapers after elections were reestablished, including a recent period of civic protests of policies linked to the authoritarian past. Data show that similar to journalism in Western democracies, throughout the twenty-one years under study, journalists relied upon official sources, allowed politicians to set the news agenda, and eschewed civil society in favor of representing citizens as voiceless individuals. However, news frames changed during the protest period in unexpected ways given current understandings of the press and civil society. During the protest period, the press framed a greater percentage of coverage as issues and offered contextualization while continuing to privilege official sources, defer agenda setting to politicians, and disregard collective organizations. Based on research elsewhere, issue frames and context may reorient causal attribution for social problems and encourage greater participation. Shortly after the study period, reform topped the political agenda, and disputed policies were overhauled. Connecting content to protests through time sequencing, findings suggest rethinking the relationship between civil society visibility in the press and processes of social accountability. They also provide an example of how legacies of authoritarianism may affect the press under democracy, helping advance theories of press performance beyond experiences in the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-67
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Latin America
  • civil society
  • democracy
  • journalism
  • political participation


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