Framing the Syrian Operations: Populism in Foreign Policy and the Polarized News Media of Turkey

Emre İşeri, Metin Ersoy


How do news media outlets react to an international crisis during a resurgence of populism at home? Led by President Erdoğan’s AK Party, Turkey’s military operations toward Syria provide fertile ground to examine how an increasingly polarized media industry has used populist framing to report on the conflict. Adopting a framing analysis method, this article analyses 2,166 examples of news coverage of the conflict by 3 mainstream national online news outlets with printed versions affiliated with certain political parties or sociopolitical camps—namely, the pro-government Sabah, the moderate/the pro-government Hürriyet, and the opposition/Kemalist Sözcü—as well as one alternative media outlet, Bianet. The findings reveal that the creation of a sense of crisis over Syria has precipitated a “rally-round-the-flag” effect. This prompted the ruling AK Party’s populist discourses to dominate the public sphere through the mainstream media, including opposition outlets, with detrimental implications for the state of democracy. It will likely serve as a baseline to make cross-country comparisons on the interplay among the media landscape, international crises, and authoritarian governments at a time of resurgent populism.


populism, political communication, media systems, rally-round-the-flag effect, foreign policy, crisis, content analysis, framing, Turkey

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