Is there journalism without democracy? Normative role conceptions and practices of journalists in an autocratic regime
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The purpose of this dissertation is to call for a more inclusive interpretation of journalism and investigate how journalists in non-democratic regimes conceptualize normative journalistic roles and describe and rationalize their institutional roles and daily reporting practices. This study used in-depth interviews with news practitioners and media experts from Belarus to show how journalists negotiate boundaries of their work and provide journalistic service within limits imposed on their autonomy. The findings of the study support the argument that political regimes should not be equated with mass media systems and that democracy is not a pre-existing condition for journalism. Journalists in non-democratic countries have similar understandings of normative roles as their colleagues in democratic nations. News practitioners from state-run and independent news organizations in Belarus work to overcome restraints on their autonomy to provide reporting that serves the interests of their audiences, facilitates dialogue between social groups, and contributes to the wellbeing of society. News workers in autocratic regimes are often expanding boundaries of press freedom with civic courage by reporting critically of government policies and by willingly taking risks when public interests are at stake. In addition, certain restrictions led to a more disciplined professional culture of journalists as thorough fact-checking is necessary to avoid penalties.
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