Dissertation Abstracts

Sounds of Silence: Practices and Discursive (Re)creations of Freedom of Expression and its Limits in the Chilean Media

Author: Sapiezynska, Ewa , eva.sap@gmail.com
Department: Faculty of Social Science
University: Universidad de Chile, Chile
Supervisor: Dr. Loreto Rebolledo
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Spanish

Keywords: freedom of expression , mass media , right to communication , journalistic routine
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Language and Society , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


Freedom of expression is one of the most prominent rights in modern liberal societies, serving as an indicator of democratic quality and development level. At the same time, the mass media is a major arena for the exercise of this right, playing a central role in public debate and opinion formation processes. Given the importance of media, there is considerable social and sociological interest in analysing what is meant by freedom of expression in that sphere, as well as in uncovering the existing challenges and limitations to that freedom. Both these aspects are examined by this thesis.

The thesis first establishes the conceptual framework (positive and negative freedom, freedom of expression vs. press freedom, right to information and communication) and the political-economic structural context of freedom of expression in the Chilean media. It then approaches its subject from three different angles. First, it analyses different discourses on freedom of expression in the media, and its limits: social and parliamentary discourse, that of major Chilean newspapers, discourse of the Chilean Journalists’ Association and that of organisations defending media freedom. Moreover, the thesis considers the dominant methodologies for assessing the status of this right.

Second, the investigation explores journalistic practices and routines in the mainstream media in Chile, showing how censorship, self-censorship, and the internal and external pressures are articulated in journalism. In addition, indices of restrictions perceived by journalists are proposed, opening up the possibility of comparisons at an international level.

Third, the dissertation proposes a heuristic tool: a model of restrictions on freedom of expression in the media and their modus operandi.

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