The consequences of colonialism in Latvia during a mass migration period in Europe (2015/2016)

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Article: 1368110 | Received 24 May 2017, Accepted 08 Aug 2017, Accepted author version posted online: 21 Aug 2017, Published online: 18 Sep 2017

Source: Cogent Social Sciences, Volume 3, 2017 – Issue 1

Pdf file:  The consequences of colonialism in Latvia during a mass migration period in Europe 2015 2016

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The collective memory of the colonial past still attempts to determine the relationship between the different ethnic groups in Latvia and also affects the identity problems of such groups. These effects are visible today in the new arena of public space, i.e. in relation to refugees. The flow of refugees into Europe in autumn 2015 was unexpected for many people. Local media reports that the large number of refugees and migrants are making the migration process uncontrollable, has signalled that there is an accidental and intentional crisis cluster here. Public opinion polls also confirmed the nervous state of the Latvian population crisis and dislike for refugee reception demanded by the management of the European Union. This research was conducted in order to determine whether such reaction of the society is rooted in xenophobia or has other reasons. Two groups of people were surveyed. One of them shows that post-colonial thinking is still present, if supported by post-colonially oriented mass media. The second group without post-colonial experience gave the opposite response. The research used local media content analysis for the purpose of determining how the leading newspapers interpret refugee crisis related developments to their readers and studied the spectrum of media used by both surveyed groups regarding the refugee issue.

Public Interest Statement

Society that frees itself of the burden of occupation and colonialism cannot adjust to the rules of existence of the democratic world quickly and painlessly. Secondary socialization facilitated by the mass media is required for this purpose. In Latvia’s case the process of transition of the public opinion from the prejudice created by dictatorship to the openness guaranteed by democracy is still ongoing even 26 years after regaining the independence and freedom from the Soviet occupation. It is proven by this study that focuses on the effects of refugee and migrant crisis on the public opinion in Latvia in 2015/2016. It attempts to determine the influence of prejudice created by post-colonialism and the mass media on the value criteria of today’s society and the related assessment of the refugee and migration crisis.

This study proved that public reaction in crisis situations cannot be explained simply and unequivocally.

1. Introduction

The consequences of colonialism in Latvia’s modern society has so far undergone only limited study (Kelertas, 2006Kelertas, V. (Ed.). (2006). Baltic post-colonialism: On the boundary of two worlds: Identity, freedom and moral imagination in the balticsAmsterdamRodopi. [Google Scholar]; Racevskis, 1998Racevskis, K. (1998). Modernity’s pretenses: Making reality fit reason from candide to the gulagAlbany, NYState University of New York Press. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2001Račevskis, K. (2001). December)Cilvēki būrīJaunā Gaita, (227), 2631. [Google Scholar]; Riekstiņš, 2015Riekstiņš, J. (2015). Padomju impērijas koloniālā politika un Latvijas kolonizācija 1940–1990RīgaTieslietu ministrija. [Google Scholar]; Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved fromhttps://providus.lv/article/latvijas-post-kolonialas-identitates-problemas. [Google Scholar]; Vardys, 1964Vardys, S. (1964). Soviet colonialism in the baltic states: A note on the nature of modern colonialism. Lituanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, 10, 2. Retrieved fromhttps://www.lituanus.org/1964/64_2_01_Vardys.html [Google Scholar]; Zariņš, 1999Zariņš, V. (1999). Kam pieder nams? RīgaLU Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts. [Google Scholar]). Most researchers believe “that post-colonial studies are based on the historical fact of European colonialism, and the diverse material effects to which this phenomenon gave rise” (Aschcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 1995Aschcroft, B.Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (1995). The post-colonial studies readerLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar], p. 2). The third “model”, or “official nationalism”, which is typical for Russia is studied to an even lesser extent. This involved the imposition of cultural homogeneity from the top, through state action. “‘Russification’ was a project which could be, and was, emulated elsewhere” (Chatterjee, 1995Chatterjee, P. (1995). Nationalism as a problem. In B. AschcroftG. Griffiths, & H. Tiffin (Eds.), The post-colonial studies reader (p. 165). LondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar], p. 165). Hence the enormous twenty-seven-nation post-Soviet sphere—including the former Soviet republics and the former Eastern Bloc states “is virtually never discussed in the burgeoning discourse of post-colonial studies. Yet Russia and the successor Soviet Union exercised colonial control over the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Baltics, and central and Eastern Europe for anywhere between 50 and 200 years” (Moore, 2001Moore, D. (2001). Is the post- in post-colonial the post – in post-soviet? Toward a global post-colonial critiqueSpecial Topic: Globalizing Literary Studies, 116111128. [Google Scholar], p. 111). Because of this the “Baltic States are eminently suited for post-colonial analysis due to their collective stories, which feature roughly one millennium of recurring colonial activity” (Jirgens, 2006Jirgens, K. (2006/2004). Fusions of discourse: Post-colonial/postmodern horizons in baltic culture. In K. Johanson-CarteeNarratives and news framing: Constructing political realityOxfordRowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Google Scholar], p. 45).

“Ethnic Latvians and ethnic Russians don’t like each other much, but they like asylum-seekers even less” (Ragozin, 2015Ragozin, L. (2015). Latvians find unity in rejecting refugeesPolitico. Retrieved fromhttps://www.politico.eu/article/latvia-migration-asylum-crisis-baltics-eu/ [Google Scholar]). The current issue is not merely xenophobia but is closely related to the colonial past: because the Soviets used the Baltic countries not only for ideology but also for systematic mass immigration (Kelertas, 2006Kelertas, V. (Ed.). (2006). Baltic post-colonialism: On the boundary of two worlds: Identity, freedom and moral imagination in the balticsAmsterdamRodopi. [Google Scholar]; Riekstiņš, 2015Riekstiņš, J. (2015). Padomju impērijas koloniālā politika un Latvijas kolonizācija 1940–1990RīgaTieslietu ministrija. [Google Scholar]), and the process of leaving state socialism behind was not simply a technological or policy issue of “transition” (Kennedy, 2002Kennedy, M. (2002). Cultural formations of postcommunism: Emancipation, transition, nation, and warMinneapolis, MNUniversity of Minnesota Press. [Google Scholar]). Rather it was sustained by the emergence of a whole new cultural formation, which he dubs “transition culture” (Hladik, 2013Hladik, R. (2013). Post-colonial Europe. A theory’s travelogue: Post-colonial theory in post-socialist space. Retrieved fromhttps://www.post-colonial-europe.eu/essays/153-a-theorys-travelogue-post-colonial-theory-in-post-socialist-space.html [Google Scholar]).

The hypothesis is an assumption that post-colonial trauma is the cause of the fact that “Latvia has the most negative attitude towards refugees in the whole of the European Union” (Latvia, 2015Latvia has most negative attitude towards refugees in EU. (2015September 14). The Baltic Times. Retrieved from The Baltic Times:https://www.baltictimes.com/latvia_has_most_negative_attitude_towards_refugees_in_eu/ [Google Scholar]), and a catalyst for this effect is local mass media. The aim of this study is to find out how the media presents information about the refugees and migrants to the audience as well as which rhetorical and linguistic tools it uses and how these tools influence the public opinion regarding refugees and migrants in Latvia.

Latvian history has two colonial periods. What follows from this is the existing binary construct (Ashcroft, 2000Ashcroft, B. (2000). Post-colonial studies. The kay conceptsLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]), which is frequently characterised by the emphasis on identity. ‘It was a remnant of the colonial era, when it was necessary to lead Latvians against colonisers’ (Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved fromhttps://providus.lv/article/latvijas-post-kolonialas-identitates-problemas. [Google Scholar]). The opinion that violence against colonisers can restore self-esteem is very common in many studies (Childs & Williams, 1997Childs, P., & Williams, P. (1997). An introduction to post-colonial theoryNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]; Fanon, 1999Fanon, F. (1999). Critical perspectivesLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). In Latvia such a process cannot be observed because the political paradigm was replaced by the diplomatic channels ‘and colonisers were not forced to flee or to recognise the fact that they were colonisers’ (Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved fromhttps://providus.lv/article/latvijas-post-kolonialas-identitates-problemas. [Google Scholar]). All post-colonial societies are still subject in one way or another to overt or subtle forms of neo-colonial domination, and “independence has not solved this problem. The development of new elites within independent societies are often buttressed by neo-colonial institutions” (Aschcroft et al., 1995Aschcroft, B.Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (1995). The post-colonial studies readerLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). In the case of Latvia, this effect is observed in the process of taking over “neo-colonial institutions” and the colonial style that is evident in media work (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar]; Zariņš, 1999Zariņš, V. (1999). Kam pieder nams? RīgaLU Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts. [Google Scholar]; Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life:https://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar]).

The study demonstrates that there is a huge gap between opinions about the refugee issue in Latvian society. A section of respondents, who mainly use only local media, were sceptical towards refugees and migrants. The remaining respondents, who for the most part use international media sources, were less sceptical towards refugees and migrants. This means that a significant proportion of Latvian newspapers are now under the control of local political powers which basically continue the traditions of USSR colonial times and as media owners keep conversing with the Latvian public as a collective agitator, propagandist, and organizer (Ļeņins, 1901/1974Ļeņins, V. I. (1901/1948–1974). Ar ko sākt? Grām. In V. I. Ļeņins (Ed.), Raksti RīgaLVI, Liesma. [Google Scholar], p. 10) which is something that is not acceptable for a new democracy such as Latvia. Similar trends of political parties using post-colonial trauma for their populist propaganda purposes may be observed in other post-communist countries today (Ankrava, 2008Ankrava, S. (2008). Iedzīvotāju izglītotība un sabiedriskās domas veidošanāsAkadēmiskā dzīve,(45), 812. [Google Scholar]; Koczanowicz & Singer, 2005Koczanowicz, L., & Singer, B. (Eds.). (2005). Democracy and the post-totalitarian experienceAmsterdamRondopi. [Google Scholar]; Slovakia, 2010Slovakia and the European Union. (2010October). Country report series III. Retrieved from University of Amsterdam:https://www.uva.nl/binaries/content/assets/faculteiten/faculteit-der-geesteswetenschappen/disciplines/europese-studies/rapporten-landenpracticum-europees-beleid/corestudies-iii—slovakia-and-the-european-union.pdf [Google Scholar]).

The war in Syria, and the civil unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, became the prime cause of the huge wave of refugees travelling to Europe during the summer of 2015. The number of people fleeing to Europe grew exponentially, and there were warnings in the ongoing refugee crisis that jihadists may be hiding amongst refugees who were coming to Europe. Apparently even Pope Francis sounded the alarm that the terrorist sect of so-called Islamic State (IS) could “infiltrate” the power of hundreds of thousands of refugees coming from Syria and Iraq who were now seeking refuge in Europe (Pope Francis, 2015Pope Francis speaks to Portugal’s Radio Renascença. (2015September 14). Vatican Radio. Retrieved fromhttps://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-speaks-to-portugals-radio-renascenca [Google Scholar]). The ongoing outflow of people from the Middle East “is a golden opportunity for IS to spread out its fighters to a larger scale, said James Clapper, director of the US intelligence services” (Ohlsson, 2015Ohlsson, E. (2015September 21). Experter avfärdar larm om jihadister i flyktingström. Dagens Nyheter. [Google Scholar], p. 4). These comments by the pope and the leader of the US intelligence services have received special attention in the media. The level of stress being exhibited by ordinary Europeans escalated dramatically. There is an increased development of cultural conflicts becoming ever worse in those countries that take in these refugees. Many youths who burned cars in protest in a number of European suburbs in recent years were Muslims. In response, Christian youths burned refugee camps. But there is nothing to suggest that they would have done it because of Islam or Christianity. It is only social and economic factors that are behind these reactions.

Latvia as an EU Member State has a quota for refugees. It must show its solidarity with the larger member countries and share their abundance of refugees. In order to solve the migration crisis, a refugee redistribution scheme will be implemented within the EU. Figures from the UNHCR actually show that the number of asylum seekers in the country has so far been very small, with just 63 people granted refugee status in Latvia between 1998 and 2014 (Volunteers, 2016Volunteers tackle prejudice against refugees in Latvia. (2016January 14). UNHCR.. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unhcr.org/569799b86.html [Google Scholar]). At the same time, it does not stop emigration from Latvia to Western Europe’s labour market. The reason for this mass migration was an austerity policy (Table 1). “Latvia’s self-discipline in the face of a sharp economic downturn and tough austerity measures wins it plenty of prizes … Some fear that emigration is turning from a safety valve to a brain drain” (Far from home, 2010Far from home. (2010October 1). The economist. Retrieved fromhttps://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2010/10/migration_and_latvia [Google Scholar]).

Table 1. International long-term migration of the population in Latvia per year between 2005 and 2013 (1000)

Formally, Latvia needs manpower and is not characterised by suffering from an overcrowded population, but at the same time two coalition partners in the Latvian parliament—the nationalist conservative National Alliance and the centrist Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS)—do not support the decision regarding refugees. “Unity, the leading partner in Latvia’s centre-right coalition, has warned that any refusal to shelter more refugees may have negative implications for Latvia’s economy and security” (Latvia, 2015Latvia has most negative attitude towards refugees in EU. (2015September 14). The Baltic Times. Retrieved from The Baltic Times:https://www.baltictimes.com/latvia_has_most_negative_attitude_towards_refugees_in_eu/ [Google Scholar]; Rinkevics, 2015Rinkevics: Latvia has found itself in international isolation because of its refusal to receive refugees. (2015September 11). EurAsia Daily. Retrieved fromhttps://eadaily.com/en/news/2015/09/11/rinkevics-latvia-has-found-itself-in-international-isolation-because-of-its-refusal-to-receive-refugees [Google Scholar]). This situation is contradictory: on the one hand at the political level the EU is threatening Latvia with possible international isolation because of its failure to agree on the resettlement of additional refugees (Refugee issue, 2015Refugee issue can threaten stability of Latvia’s current govt-unity. (2015September 14). BNS ziņas. Retrieved fromhttps://www.latviannewsservice.lv/en/topic/1905/news/50041223/ [Google Scholar]; Latvia, 776 refugees, 2015Latvia, 776 refuges would cost Latvia 2.8 million Euros (2015September 11). BNN. Retrieved formhttps://bnn-news.com/776-refugees-cost-latvia-2-8-million-euros-132929 [Google Scholar]), while on the other hand, there have been no registered attacks against the refugees or refugee camps by the local residents of Latvia as opposed to the case in Sweden, France, and Germany, where it is quite common (EU länder, 2015EU-länder vidtar panikåtgärder fär att stoppa flyktingar. (2015June 25). Sveriges radio. Retrieved fromhttps://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=6198314 [Google Scholar]; FNB, 80 flyktingar, 2015FNB, 80 flyktingar evakuerades under brand. (2015October 12). Hufvudstadsbladet. Retrieved fromhttps://gamla.hbl.fi/nyheter/2015-12-10/781787/flyktingforlaggning-evakuerades-pa-grund-av-brand [Google Scholar]; Kaos, 2015Kaos i Calais vid strejk i hamnen. (2015June23). Sveriges radioRetrieved from:https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=6196891 [Google Scholar]; Nya attacker, 2015Nya attacker mot asylboenden I Sverige. (2015November 11). Yle nyheter. Retrieved fromhttps://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2015/11/07/nya-attacker-mot-asylboenden-i-sverige [Google Scholar]; Planerat, 2015Planerat flyktingboende brann ner i Sverige. (2015October 17). Yle nyheter. Retrieved fromhttps://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2015/10/17/planerat-flyktingboende-brann-ner-i-sverige [Google Scholar]; Så här, 2015Så här många flyktingboenden har brunnit i Sverige. (2015October 28). TV4 News. [Google Scholar]) (Table 2, Valsts Robežsardze, 2017.08).

Table 2. Detainees, illegal immigrants and trespassers in Latvia, 2015

So far, the reception of refugees in Latvia has been described in the media as having a great deal of public resistance. This study was carried out in order to determine whether the public really expresses the same view that is being proclaimed by the leading media outlets.

2. Study background

The media has so far explained this situation with a number of objective reasons: (a) limited experience in the reception of refugees; (b) bad experiences with immigrants after the restoration of independence, due to existing Russian-speaking economic migrants from the former Soviet Union, who currently represent around 42% of the population and do not want to integrate into the country (The measurement, 2013The measurement of poverty and social inclusion in the EU: Achievements and further improvements. (2013December 2–3). In Conference of European statisticiansGeneva. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/stats/documents/ece/ces/ge.15/2013/WP_25_Eurostat_D_En.pdf [Google Scholar]); (c) the economic crisis of 2007–2009, after which inhabitants have been suffering low living standards and have been taking part in mass emigration due to unemployment; (d) contributions to the refugee quota are higher than the average for Latvian senior citizens; (e) public fear of an unknown religion.

There are also other factors involved. Latvia’s population has a poor experience of communication with the EU. The so-called Latvian success story when EU experts forced austerity policies on Latvia in order to provide guidance over the economic crisis was not a forward-looking step. As a result, a fifth of the country’s population is now working abroad (Aslund & Dombrovskis, 2011Aslund, A., & Dombrovskis, V. (2011). How Latvia came through the financial crisisWashington, DCPeter G. Peterson institute for International Economics. [Google Scholar]; Sommers & Woolfson, 2014Sommers, J., & Woolfson, C. (Eds.). (2014). The contradictions of austerity. The socio-economic costs of the neoliberal Baltic modelNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). An important reason for domestic discontent was the fact that the EU missed the opportunity to conduct proper crisis communication with the public of Latvia during the economic crisis and the time at which the austerity policy was implemented (Veinberg, 2014Veinberg, S. (2014). The analysis of government’s communications and public engagement’s socio-political effects during the financial crisis in Latvia (2008–2011)Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, 14156. [Google Scholar]). At the same time, the government advises its citizens to be helpful to refugees and claims that rendering hospitality will affect society at all levels. The EU official articles, German and Swedish political leaders’ articles that were reprinted in two newspapers and which claimed: “it is our duty to shelter refugees”, “we can help”, “overcome national egoism”, “united Europe”, and “let’s be honest”, were not heard by the general public in Latvia.

The modern era has seen two waves of migration to and from Europe. The end of WWII brought in its wake the largest population movements in European history. Millions of people fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe. Latvians were also amongst the numbers of refugees. In the nation’s collective memory there are both refugee camps in Germany (Kalnins, 2015Kalnins, M. (2015). Latvia. A short historyLondonHurst & Company. [Google Scholar]; Zake, 2010Zake, I. (2010). American Latvians: Politics of a refugee communityNew BrunswickTransaction Publichers. [Google Scholar]) and the tragic story of the Baltic legionnaires who were forcibly deported from Sweden to the Soviet Union (Lindholm, 1992Lindholm, R. (1992). Baltutlämningen och folkrätten. Retrieved fromhttps://svjt.se/svjt/1992/449 [Google Scholar]; Turner, 2015Turner, B. (2015). Karl Doenitz and the last days of the Third ReichHaryanaPenguin Books India. [Google Scholar]). That is when Europe collectively realised that people fleeing persecution should have the right to seek refuge in order to access fundamental human rights (Alfred, 2015Alfred, C. (2015September 15). What history can teach us about the worst refugee crisis since WWII? The Huffington Post. Retrieved fromhttps://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alexander-betts-refugees-wwii_us_55f30f7ce4b077ca094edaec [Google Scholar]). On the one hand, society has the experience and awareness of refugee issues, but on the other hand, the ambitiousness of local politicians as manifested through the media hinders Latvians compassion for unhelpfulness. This was the next important question for this research.

Understanding the nature of prejudice, scapegoating, stereotypes, and discrimination as used in the media is the first step in combating these practices. In order to determine this, one needs to analyse systems of metaphors. We “choose our words from within a dominant system or frame of metaphor that offers us a specific lexicon of the language, that defines words in certain specific ways, and that shapes both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of our communication. In this way, figuratively and often literally, through metaphor we make meaning” (Steuter & Wills, 2008Steuter, E., & Wills, D. (2008). At war with metaphor: Media, propaganda, and racism in the war of terrorPlymouthLexington Books. [Google Scholar], p. 3). The literary meaning of the word “metaphor” is “to carry over”. A metaphor transfers aspects of one object to another symbolically, even if the objects are originally in no way connected (Hawkes, 1972Hawkes, T. (1972). MetaphorLondonMethuen. [Google Scholar], p. 1).

When the media constantly repeats one word, the patterns begin to appear as if they are true. “This transposition is one of the key effects of metaphor” (Steuter & Wills, 2008Steuter, E., & Wills, D. (2008). At war with metaphor: Media, propaganda, and racism in the war of terrorPlymouthLexington Books. [Google Scholar], p. 4). Media has always explored and used the power of metaphor. This is the way that metaphor has been seen by scholars since the 1970s, as an important tool for forming “an essential aspect of cognition” (Winner, 1988Winner, E. (1988). The point of worldsCambridgeHarvard University Press. [Google Scholar], p. 17). The aim of this study was to find out how the media presents information about the refugees and migrants to the audience and what kind of rhetorical and linguistic tools it uses.

3. Methodology

In order to be able to develop an understanding of which risks are accelerated in young people in Latvia by globalisation and by the country’s colonial past, a non-proportional stratified sample of the population of young adults was used. This was formed of a total of 220 students for the purpose of the survey. All of them were asked to fill out questionnaires. The average age of the participants was 25.5 years. Each of them was a student at Liepaja University and RISEBA in Riga (in March 2016), for the purpose of gathering data, including the sample site. In parallel with this, a similar public survey, the 2016 Mars month, was suggested. A total of 120 respondents with an average age of 39.6 years responded through social networking sites.

In order to develop an understanding of the sources of information or the news in the Latvian media during the period between August 2015 and January 2016, two leading newspapers—Diena and Latvijas Avīze—were used.11. Latvijas Avīze being abbreviated to LA from this point forwards.View all notes Only the printed rather than digital versions of newspapers were studied as these newspaper publications were widely used by the Latvian population during migration crisis (Table 4). In order to analyse and systematise reporting about the flow of refugees across Europe and the effects caused by this flow, two methods were used: the dialogism implied by Mikhail Bakhtin (1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar]) and critical discourse analysis, which tends to be characterised as having an “active relation to reality” (Fairclough, 1992Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social changeCambridgePolity Press. [Google Scholar], p. 41; Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar]).

Rhetoric is always associated with a particular situation and must be seen in its historical and social context. Context is decisive for the analysis. An emergency situation is an excellent background for the analysis of the media rhetoric which is the rhetoric of authority (Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar], p. 19). By applying this methodology we can analyse the text on four levels: (1) content, (2) emotional manifestation, (3) pointing the finger at the reader to make them act and react, and (4) appeal to the reader to share the journalist’s opinion (Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar], p. 20). In this way we construct the median of their morale by using their words (Andersen, 1996Andersen, Ø. (1996). I retorikens hageOsloUniversitetsforlaget. [Google Scholar]; Karlberg & Mral, 1998Karlberg, M., & Mral, B. (1998). Heder och påverkan. Att analysera modern retorikStockholmNatur och Kultur. [Google Scholar]).

4. Analysis, findings, and results

Publications that examine the refugee crisis in the period between August 2015 to January 2016 are regular and extensive. Table 3 shows the number of publications in both magazines. Most of them were published in September. The turning points here are the same as in other European newspapers: drowned, three-year Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi (2 September), the day upon which Germany reinstated border checks (13 September), and the EU summit that was aimed at reaching agreement on a common European approach to the migrant crisis (23 September) (EJO Pētījums, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved fromhttps://lv.ejo-online.eu/3633/mediju-zurnalistika/petijums-ka-laikraksti-eiropa-atspoguloja-beglu-krizi [Google Scholar]). A number of publications each month are proportional in their coverage of tragedies in the Mediterranean and in their coverage of the news in Europe. The dramatic increase in the number of publications in September shows the media’s confusion in the face of the current crisis situation. Each crisis refers to a sequence of unwanted events which can have unpleasant results. And that is exactly how both newspapers explained the situation in Europe: “this wave of refugees is approaching like a storm but nobody is prepared to meet it” (Bundžu, 2015Bundžu, J. (2015September 10). Bēgļu cēloņi un sekas. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “no problems have been solved; everything exists only on paper” (Zvirbulis, 2016Zvirbulis, Ģ. (2016January 13). Bēgļus uzraudzīs drošības policija. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “this is not a crisis, this is a disaster” (Zandere, 2015Zandere, A. (2015August 25). Kad no bēgļiem neizbēgt. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “this is a bankruptcy of the EU’s migration policy” (Bērziņš, 2015Bērziņš, V. (2015September 4). Imigrācijas krīze sašķeļ Eiropu; Tusks aicina uz solidaritāti. Latvijas Avīze, p. 6. [Google Scholar]; Šnore, 2015Šnore, E. (2015September 8). Eiropa bez robežām. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]).

Table 3. The number of publications covering the refuge crisis: Diena & Latvijas Avize. 08.2015 -01.2016

4.1. Two post-colonial effects

Newspapers stressed that instead of a well-thought-out strategy, Brussels and Riga issued hurried instructions. “The flow of refugees is growing steadily” (Ķezberis, 2015bĶezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. [Google Scholar]), “the process is out of control” (Žīgure, 2015Žīgure, A. (2015October 8). Bēgļi rada apjukumu visoes līmeņos. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). It was directly stated to the reader that desperate people from the Middle East were arriving in Europe non-stop, and that this had brought the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. “European governments have ended up squabbling over ‘border fences’, ‘border security’, and ‘burden sharing’” (The Refuge Crisis, 2015The refugee crisis in Europe and the middle east. (2015September). International Rescue Committee. Retrieved fromhttps://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/IRC%202015%20Appeal%20Refugee%20Crisis.pdf [Google Scholar]), and with this overture begins the story of the wave of refugees. Moreover, the EU and national leaders expressed different positions on this matter. “The EU forces us to accept refugees on a compulsory basis” (ANO, 2015ANO. (2015December 3). Bēgļu aģentūra: Latvija nevarēs bēgļus izvēlēties, balstoties uz reliģiju vai etnisko piederību. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “Latvian politicians believe that it is blackmail and populism” (Vikmanis, 2015Vikmanis, G. (2015September 2). Šantāža bēgļu jautājumā. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Visegrad against Brussels. Where are we?” (Šmits, 2016Šmits, U. (2016). Kāpēc Austrumeiropas valstis bieži nonāk Briseles kritikas krustugunīs? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Merkel’s policies are not understandable” (Lorencs, 2015Lorencs, J. (2015September 29). Merkeli uz Sibīriju, Putinu uz Berlīni? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Juncker’ is now the damn for us” (Pie valdības nama, 2015Pie valdības nama aptuveni tūkstotis cilvēku, kas protestē pret jaunu imigrantu uzņēmšanu Latvijā. (2015August 4). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

Both newspapers here use actions that have the ability to control reader behaviour (Johanson-Cartee, 2004Johanson-Cartee, K. (2004). Narratives and news framing : Constructing political realityOxfordRowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Google Scholar], p. 152), and by using meta-communication they form their own codes and value ideology, and consequently the meanings and messages’ (Kellner, 1995Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture: Cultural studies, identity, and politics between the modern and the postmodernLondonRoutledge.10.4324/9780203205808[Crossref][Google Scholar]). Content analysis shows the dominance from only one position in Nerman’s four steps (1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar]): (1) “data shows that the flow of refugees is growing steadily” (Content A), (Ķezberis, 2015bĶezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (2) “is it possible for us to escape these refugees?” (emotional manifestations), (Zandere, 2015Zandere, A. (2015August 25). Kad no bēgļiem neizbēgt. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (3) “everyone is waiting for the missing scenario” (“point the finger”); (4) “Hungary has declared a state of emergency and closed the borders” (“appeal”), (Ungārija, 2015Ungārija no pusnakts slēdz robežu ar Horvātiju. (2015October 16). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

In this position, we can observe the first post-colonial effects. In the interpretation of the current events—the need for a strong leader (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]) who is capable of conducting harsh reprisals against the refugees and migrants is obvious: “There is no solution here, just empty talk in Brussels”; “There is nothing concrete, no real solution, only danger” (Valdība, 2015Valdība vēl nevienojas par bēgļu uzņemšanas plāna risinājumu. (2015September 29). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “They forced us to shelter refugees in Latvia at any price”, “no leaders in this crisis” (Zvirbulis, 2015aZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015aSeptember 4). Bēgļu jautājumā koalīcijas disciplīna uzvar. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]2015dZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015dSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’ Straujumas valdībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). The need for a leader (a one party leader) is a typical feature of the post-Soviet area and so it was interesting to know whether readers really supported this approach (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Zepa,2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life:https://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar]).

The first survey shows that the first test group read the newspapers more. According to Table 4, the first group in the survey (average age: 39.6) showed more interest in paper newspapers than their digital natives (25.5) who read almost only on screen. Printed media no longer rates amongst the top sources of information for respondents in Latvia, but it is interesting to find out what niche the classical media has today. Reading parents and reading friends are relatively important for both groups (Table 4). The first group (39.6) “sometimes” reads news on paper as often as their digital natives read news on screen. This means that people no longer subscribed to newspapers on paper (this tradition disappears) and the future of newspapers is only on the computer or phone screen. The news media are used by both groups equally (50–55%) and the only thing that was unusual was that “other sources” were used by 18–19% of them. In order to determine the need for “other sources”, the next question was whether the existing sources meet requirements. Further results (Table 5) show that readers are stressed but that they do not accept the information provided by the local media. Nearly 40% describe information about the migrant crisis as “tendentious” (age 39.6). Both groups agree that attention to the crisis in the media is “bad”. Only 4% of readers rated it as “good” (Table 5).

Table 4. Using newspapers in Latvia. Period: August 2013–January 2016

Table 5. Latvian media about refugee problem (%)

Both newspapers have at least two daily publications that cover refugee issues. Relatively little information on the flow of refugees across Europe is provided; instead there are more analytical articles and discussions about the opinions of local politicians. This explains why the results of the survey show that the publications are “tendentious” (Table 5). The author must agree with that the European Journalism Observatory (EJO) study, which concluded that “the media of Eastern European and the Baltic States was mainly occupied with negative attitudes, without showing compassion for the refugees, and was against the European Union’s migration policy” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved fromhttps://lv.ejo-online.eu/3633/mediju-zurnalistika/petijums-ka-laikraksti-eiropa-atspoguloja-beglu-krizi [Google Scholar]). There were almost no human stories about the everyday life of refugees or interviews with refugees themselves. Even the tragic picture of the deceased Kurdish boy was only published in one Latvian newspaper—Diena (2 September 2015)—and did not have “the big emotional impact as highlighted, for example, in the German, Italian, or Portuguese media” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved fromhttps://lv.ejo-online.eu/3633/mediju-zurnalistika/petijums-ka-laikraksti-eiropa-atspoguloja-beglu-krizi [Google Scholar]). It stems from the two post-colonial consequences above: (1) the need for a single leader, and (2) public distrust of the media (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Havel, 1991Havel, V. (1991). Open letters: Selected writings, 1965–1990. (P. Wilson Ed.). New York, NYAlfred A. Knopf. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar]).

4.2. Media rhetoric during the crisis

4.2.1. The human interest argument

The news services believe that an event with “an unpredictable ending” is one of the most important news selection criteria in the flow of news something that helps promote human interest, and “human interest is an essential ingredient of news” (Mencher, 2000Mencher, M. (2000). News reporting and writingSingaporeMCgraw Hill. [Google Scholar], p. 63). Publications in both newspapers show the flow of refugees across Europe and state that this is that crisis with an unpredictable ending, a crisis situation without a way out. That is why the newspapers are using: (a) statistics with illustrations: “191,000 people killed” (Kasparāns, 2015Kasparāns, G. (2015September 8). Karš pret terorismu nav uzvarēts. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “100 refugees an hour arriving in Munich” (Liepiņa, 2015Liepiņa, A. (2015September 2). Minhenē ir stundu 100 bēgļu. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (b) emotionally powerful images: illustrations and drawings, such as barbed wire fences, which build up reactions against refugees, pictures of destroyed areas of Syria, the “Refugees Welcome” photo from Germany (Tūkstošiem, 2015Tūkstošiem cilvēku gatavojas bēgļu atbalsta gājienam Briselē. (2015September 27). Diena. [Google Scholar]); the “Stop Halt Polizei” photo from Germany (Ir plans, 2015Ir plans kā slēgt robežu, ja bēgļu straumes pavēršas mūsu virzienā. (2015September 21). Diena. [Google Scholar]); or showing a drawing of a medieval pillory by the church. A woman tied to the stake is Latvia and the pillory is the EU (Ošs, 2015Ošs, E. (2015September 17). Eiropas kauna stabs. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (c) the use of emotionally strong language (metaphors, features, and rhetorical phrases): “a respectable number of immigrants” (Ķezberis, 2015aĶezberis, U. (2015aSeptember 10). EK velas obligātu bēgļu uzņemšanu. Diena. [Google Scholar]bĶezberis, U. (2015aSeptember 10). EK velas obligātu bēgļu uzņemšanu. Diena.
Ķezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. 
); “the disobedient member countries”, “a tool to exert pressure”, “waves of refugees are rising and might drown Europe in the shape of an enormous tsunami” (Eniņš, 2015Eniņš, G. (2015September 18). Bēgļu laiks būs baigs. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “a dramatically growing number of migrants” (Zvirbulis, 2015bZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015bSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]cZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015cSeptember 15). Bēgļu jautājums nebūs valdības krišanas iemesls. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “the drowning of Europe” (Līcītis, 2015aLīcītis, E. (2015aMarch 1). Banketu atcēla. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (d) irony: “don’t worry, they won’t be Jews”, “Members of Parliament joking”, “Pope calls on every Catholic family to shelter one immigrant family” (Zanders, 2015Zanders, M. (2015September 29). Jautri puiši un meitenes. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (e) the use of language and illustration for ironic purposes: “Muhammad has arrived with a fortune and a cell phone in his hand” (Līcītis, 2015bLīcītis, E. (2015bAugust 19). Mums jāņem bēgļi savā kompānijā. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “sons of deserts”, (Līcītis, 2015cLīcītis, E. (2015cSeptember 9). Tomēr grib ģermanizēties. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “souls fleeing from tyrannies” (Līcītis, 2015dLīcītis, E. (2015dNovember 24). Vai Latvija pārstās būt drošas mājas. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “refugees with advanced handsets” & “a crisis that has forced our politicians up a coconut tree” (Zanders, 2015Zanders, M. (2015September 29). Jautri puiši un meitenes. Diena. [Google Scholar]). In fact this is not humanitarian interest, but deliberate populism which, in eastern and central European media, “should be treated as a dynamic phenomenon in which radical ideological components are becoming overshadowed by pure anti-establishment appeal” (Učen, 2007Učen, P. (2007). Parties, populisms, and anti-establishment politics in east central EuropeSAIS Review of International Affairs, 274962. [Google Scholar], p. 49).

4.2.2. Shifting the problem at the micro level

Economic issues were highlighted as being the most important argument against refugees in Latvia. In newspaper articles about internal issues many of these people are referred to as “economic migrants” or “immigrants” who “cannot be accommodated because ‘there are no free apartments available because young families are already in the queue for these’” (Egle, 2015Egle, I. (2015August 31). Brauks uz Somiju pēc pieredzes. Diena. [Google Scholar]). The arguments are as follows: (a) immigrants can worsen Latvia’s prosperity: “refugees should not be provided with a material standard of living that is higher than that of our poor people and senior citizens” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (b) it will inevitably lead to a conflict of cultures: “they do not speak our language” (Eksperti, 2015Eksperti: latviešu valoda bēgļiem būtu jāmāca no pirmās dienas (2015August 24). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), and “it is a matter of concern that after integrating refugees Latvia might do much worse” (Liepiņš, 2015Liepiņš, A. (2015August 20). Bravūrīgi paziņojumi par bēgļu uzņemšanu. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). “Where will the refugees live? We have no answer. Where will they work? No answer either” (Saeimā, 2015Saeimā pagaidām nav atbalsta papildu bēgļu uzņemšanai Latvijā. (2015September 8). Diena. [Google Scholar]), “If immigrants are not going to work, then there will be pressure on taxes. If they are trained, then they will outdo us on the labour market” (Uzņēmēji, 2015Uzņēmēji gatavo nodarbināt bēgļus, nobažījušies par viņu inregrāciju tirgū. (2015September 24). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

Applying the problem to the private economy of the population is an effective meta-communication on a micro level. The most popular phrases in newspapers in August were the following: “the problem has fallen on the shoulders of local government authorities” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “should clarify how much it will cost for local authorities”, “be tolerant of local people”, “there is no need to provoke local people”, “where and how will immigrants work?” (Pašvaldību, 2015Pašvaldību līderi: bēgļu uzņemšana ir komplicēts jautājums. (2015August 6). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); and, finally, only one appearance of: “maybe it’s not so bad” (Jēkabsons, 2015Jēkabsons, Ē. (2015August 4). Palīdzība ‘grūtdieņiem’ vai pakļaušanās starptautiski organizētai noziedzībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). It is noteworthy that most of the articles devoted themselves to the point of view of local government policy, which is almost as Aleksandrs Bartašēvičs of Rēzekne City Council illustrates: “Latvija does not need refugees. We have no place for them” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). Such a statement without a contradictory point of view or a discussion may be considered a consequence of post-colonialism in the Latvian media because the politician’s opinion is the only point of view expressed by both dailies (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Spolītis & Reez, 2008Spolītis, V., & Reez, A. (2008). Latvijas deviņdesmitā un trīsdesmit trešā gadskārtaAkadēmiskā Dzīve, 452129. Retrieved fromhttp://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar]; Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life:https://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar]). It is clear that the two leading dailies have taken the position of certain political parties when it comes to refugee issues continuing the media work logics established by the colonial times when newspapers are used as agitators of political leaders and propagandists. If it was not for the post-colonial effects such media work practice would have no influence on the public opinion.

The next step is to find out if other local media reflect the refugee problem better. Table 6 shows that none of the local media outlets can supply “objective” information to readers. The best information about the crisis is coming from the public service media outlet, Latvian TV (LTV) at 21%, followed by the newspaper, Latvijas Avīze (LA) with 16%, and public service radio (Latvijas radio) with 14%. Only the second group with an average age of 25.5 years was participating in this stage of the study. The most tendentious information during the crisis was published via internet media: Kas Jauns, Delfi, TVNET, and Apollo. The least tendentious and the most objective was once again Latvijas Avīze. The study showed that both groups of respondents were not satisfied with how local media reflected the refugee crisis.

Table 6. How is the refugee issue reflected in the Latvian media? 2015/2016 (%)

4.2.3. The image of a refugee

The next step was an analysis of the concept of a “refugee” using Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory of dialogic imagination (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar]). The text in a newspaper is a dialogic work. This means that the journalist creates a continuous dialogue with other texts (documents from government bodies, institutions, the European Union, etc.), other authors of opinion (politicians, decision makers, etc.), and with public opinion. This is about the essential dialogue, formed in the process of social interaction, and this leads to the interaction of different social values being registered in terms of the re-accentuation of the speech of others (Bakhtin, 1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar]). For Bakhtin “being” “means to communicate dialogically”, and “one voice nothing ends and nothing permits. Two voices—at least life, at least life” (Bakhtin, 1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar], p. 294) is a very important process. This includes a perception of the text (1) understanding the meaning in the given language, (2) understanding in the context of culture, and (3) an active dialogical understanding (Viktorova, 1998Viktorova, L. (1998). Dialogovaya kontseptsiya kultury M.M. Bakhtina – V.S. Biblera. Paradigma. No.1. [Google Scholar]).

In order to describe “the other” (Boguslavskaya, 2011Boguslavskaya, S. (2011). Dialog v trudakh M.M. Bakhtina. Vestnik OGU. 08.07. [Google Scholar], p. 18) or “alien” (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar], p. 423), Diena and Latvijas Avīze used the following words: “refugees”, “migrants” (Lībijā, 2015Lībijā, apgāžoties divām migrant laivām, vismaz 100 bojāgājušie (2015August 28). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “immigrants”, “islamists” (Līcītis, 2015dLīcītis, E. (2015dNovember 24). Vai Latvija pārstās būt drošas mājas. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “EU migrants”, “travelling migrants”, “illegal immigrants” (Vācijā, 2015Vācijā ik stundu ierodas 100 nelegālie imigranti. (2015September 2). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “those who are desperately trying to reach rich Europe” (Jēkabsons, 2015Jēkabsons, Ē. (2015August 4). Palīdzība ‘grūtdieņiem’ vai pakļaušanās starptautiski organizētai noziedzībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); and “those who have not clearly heard that their women here should not wear Muslim clothing” (Antonevičs, 2015Antonevičs, M. (2015August 15). Musulmaņu sieviešu apģērbu aizliegšana būtu cīņa ar sekām, nevis cēloņiem. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). In order to determine the recurrence of the word “refugee”, two randomly selected articles in October,22. Ķezberis, Soļi migrantu krīzes risināšanai, Diena, 27 October 2015; Zvirbulis, Valsts plāns—uzgrūst bēgļus pašvaldībām. LA, 26 October 2015.View all notes and two in December,33. Diena, 23 Feruary 2015, LA, Eiropā ieradies miljons migrantu. 23 December 2015.View all notes were analysed (Table 7). The most frequently used word is “migrant”—24%, followed by “asylum seeker”—19%. In October and December, the most used term was “migrant”, repeated 24 and eleven times respectively. This was followed by “asylum seeker”—with nineteen occurrences in October and six in December. The third most used was “immigrant”—thirteen times in October and seven in December. In December the use of the words “refugee” (10 times) and “aliens” (6 times) was growing. A quantitative analysis shows that newspapers tend to focus on migrants rather than the refugee issue. Such an approach creates the preconditions for the effects of a hybridisation of value. In this way “the refugee issue” has become invisible and has disappeared into the shadow of “migration”. At the same time, one can observe reaccentuation and an accentuation of value, which “can substantially alter the sound of a word in its context” (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar], p. 422). Therefore we can make an assumption that the perception of readers of the newspaper’s text may be mistaken: they fail to understand “cultural differences” (Bibler, 1991Bibler, V. (1991). Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, or the Poetics of CultureMoskvaProgress. [Google Scholar], p. 85) between refugees and migrants which makes them unable to participate in a dialogue with the authors of the article.

Table 7. An analysis of the recurrence of the words “refugee” & “migrant” in Diena and Latvijas Avīze between October and December, 2015

Since September the newspapers have been offering the reader two stereotypes of a refugee that are diametrically opposite. The first of them is the compassionate image in which the refugee is considered to be a man on the run, in need of help. From a qualitative point of view, there were less publications that involved this view. The second image of a refugee is a brazen, dangerous competitor on the labour market, almost a terrorist, and such articles are quantitatively far more common. Both papers retained the same attitude throughout the investigation period until the crisis reached its culmination in January 2016. The survey shows that the public does not support such a stereotype of refugees and migrants (Table 7). The results of a survey show that the majority of young people (and an overwhelming majority of students) distinguish refugees from migrants and do not seek to use the stereotypes “they are all alike” or “they all are bad”. People from the oldest age group share an opinion that is closer to the position of the newspapers. It seemed interesting to find out whether students had met and had a chance to get to know refugees as people and therefore their attitude towards these people was more positive. Table 8 shows that students often have not met people who are on the run—90% of them. This was more probable for the other group of respondents (39.6)—20%. But most of them were sceptical about refugees and relied more on the opinion of the newspapers (40%). Students were more interested in meeting migrants privately (30%) while 20% would not like to have such an encounter (Table 9). It seemed important to find out why students (25.5) condemned the two newspapers and were more positive towards refugees. Maybe this is the European Union’s information success story in Latvia. Table 10 showed that the EU’s official information is not particularly popular amongst participants (25.5); however, regardless of this, students were more positive towards refugees. The question was: “Do you have information about the refugee crisis that has been gathered from the EU’s sources of information?” Half of students (51%) answered “no”, 25% said “sometimes”, 10% “hadn’t noticed” such information at all, 5% did not know that such information existed, and only 4% had received information about the refugee crisis from the EU information channels. It turns out that the European Union channels of information are not the best source of information for this areas of the population.

Table 8. How would you describe a person called as a refugee? (%)

Table 9. Would you ever meet a refuge? (%)

Table 10. Du you use information from the EU about the refugee crisis in Latvia? (%)

4.2.4. ”Power” and “We” groups

Both newspapers portrayed the EU during the crisis as public enemy No. 1. “Refugees are Junkers’ gift to Europe” (Zvirbulis, 2015bZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015bSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]2015dZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015dSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’ Straujumas valdībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “the crisis is a result of the bad policies of former colonial powers or of the European Union’s largest countries” (Šmits, 2015Šmits, U. (2015September 7). Humānismu mēra kvotās? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). During the month of September, newspapers were revealed to have divided the audience into two groups: “we” and “power.” The “power” group includes the EU institutions, the national government, and the refugees themselves, while on the opposite side are Latvian newspaper readers and the local media. This is a typical expression of post-colonial “privatisation of democracy” (Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life:https://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar]) which provokes “a process of social disintegration accompanied by a gradual loss of legitimacy for parliamentary democracy, and this, quite possibly, may provoke authoritarianism” (Ostrovska, 1996/1997Ostrovska, I. (1996/1997). The state and it’s civil society: Priorities in a period of transitionHumanities and Social Sciences, No. 4(13)/1(14). [Google Scholar], 19). The EJO, in its 2015 study on the topic of European refugees in the media, stresses that in the media of the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Baltic States, “articles about refugees devote more attention to politics” and therefore they “were more negative, especially towards the EU” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved fromhttps://lv.ejo-online.eu/3633/mediju-zurnalistika/petijums-ka-laikraksti-eiropa-atspoguloja-beglu-krizi [Google Scholar]). The emphasis is placed on the desired description of events instead of the actual description of events (Jaworsky & Coupland, 1999Jaworsky, A., & Coupland, N. (1999). The discourse readerNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]; Mills, 2004Mills, S. (2004). Discourse: The new critical idiom(2nd ed.). LondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). Only 9% of articles noticed that “the crisis could also provide new opportunities” (Uzņēmēji, 2015Uzņēmēji gatavo nodarbināt bēgļus, nobažījušies par viņu inregrāciju tirgū. (2015September 24). Diena. [Google Scholar]). European conservative newspapers: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph (both from the UK), Il Giornale (Italy), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), Mlada Fronta Dnes (Czech Republic), and Rzeczpospolita (Poland), (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved fromhttps://lv.ejo-online.eu/3633/mediju-zurnalistika/petijums-ka-laikraksti-eiropa-atspoguloja-beglu-krizi [Google Scholar]) responded to the refugee crisis in 2015/2016 in a similar style. In order to understand why the student audience is more optimistic about refugees, the author had to investigate how they use the international media.

4.2.5. The international media as the provider of a polyphony of information

The survey showed that digital natives are not worried about religious differences. The only exception is the debate on whether Muslim women should be allowed or not allowed to wear Muslim headscarves in public spaces. This topic does not appear as being important. The finding was the importance of the foreign media as an information source (Table 11). The question was posed as follows: which media source best reported the refugee crisis? The responses from students were unexpectedly interesting. They showed that foreign media consumption is voluminous. F news (foreign news), F radio (foreign radio), and F int port (foreign internet portals) are far more in demand than many of the domestic media sources. Latvian news (LV news) picked up only 14% and Latvian public service television (LV TV) even less at 8%, both being were mentioned as accurate sources of information. Foreign internet media has explained the crisis in an exhaustive and clever manner (19%). This is followed by Latvian public service television (18%) and Latvian public service radio (18%). Russian media that is available on a daily basis in Latvia was found to be highly tendentious (29%). Domestic internet portals (LV Internet) were ranked the second most tendentious (25%).

Table 11. Which source informs the best about the refugee crisis? (%)

The next table, Table 12, shows the most popular foreign media sources, with the UK media leading with its illustrations (34%), news (33%), and reports (23%) at the top of the list. The runner up was the USA with its news (23%), movies (16%), discussions (16%), and interviews (16%). These were followed by Germany with news (19%), reports (13%), discussions (9%), and illustrations (9%). Nordic and Russian media sources were the fifth and sixth most-used sources by Latvian students. The least used sources of information on the refugee crisis were the French media, where news and reports were followed by just 8%. And the least used source of foreign information were German movies at 1%.

Table 12. Foreign media covering the refugee crisis 2015/2016 (%)

This means that both of the surveyed groups use significantly different sources for their media-delivered information. The first group uses a domestic media information feed on the refugee crisis that they do not trust and almost never use foreign sources which can be seen as post-colonial, this remaining part of their thought process which is characterised by “distrust any information” (Havel, 1991Havel, V. (1991). Open letters: Selected writings, 1965–1990. (P. Wilson Ed.). New York, NYAlfred A. Knopf. [Google Scholar], p. 136). At the same time they look at world events as being an incomprehensible and decadent process “because nothing has changed” (Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar], p. 21). The need for a strong leader or the “return of authoritarianism” (Spolītis & Reez, 2008Spolītis, V., & Reez, A. (2008). Latvijas deviņdesmitā un trīsdesmit trešā gadskārtaAkadēmiskā Dzīve, 452129. Retrieved fromhttp://www.lu.lv/fileadmin/user_upload/lu_portal/adz/arhivs/45/45.pdf [Google Scholar], p. 27), distrust in the media, and confusion in the face of complex events with different views are three post-colonial effects.

It is possible that the use of foreign sources explains the difference between the two groups. Students do not exhibit similar attitudes. They showed a different approach in their use of news sources and seemed to be free of post-colonial effects in the use of information.

5. Discussion and conclusion

(1) The results of the study showed that different age groups have different reactions to the refugee crisis. It is likely that the post-colonial past affects senior respondent groups, whose dislike to mass migration is contributed to by emotionally strained stand of the local press towards mass migration. The same was not observed in young adults who have not experienced the effects of colonial past personally and use mainly objective foreign information sources.
(2) The study found that the local and foreign media provide different interpretations of information about the refugees and migrants to the Latvian audience and therefore media use for the most part explains different attitudes of the first and the second group towards migrants and migration issues in the country.
(3) Strikingly tendentious interpretation of events and use of rhetorical and linguistic tools can be observed in the way the local media reflects the crisis.
(4) The crisis highlights the problems on the Latvian media market. The lack of a liberal and independent press is the reason why public opinion about the refugee crisis in Latvia is so negative.
(5) The lack of a liberal media on the local market explains the pursuit of young people for foreign resources that are covering the refugee crisis.

Notes

1. Latvijas Avīze being abbreviated to LA from this point forwards.

2. Ķezberis, Soļi migrantu krīzes risināšanai, Diena, 27 October 2015; Zvirbulis, Valsts plāns—uzgrūst bēgļus pašvaldībām. LA, 26 October 2015.

3. Diena, 23 Feruary 2015, LA, Eiropā ieradies miljons migrantu. 23 December 2015.

References

Additional information

Author information

Sandra Veinberg

Sandra Veinberg, PhD is an associate professor of Communication Sciences at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Management Sciences of Liepaja University. Approved expert for science of communication at Latvian Academy of Sciences.

Sandra Veinberg is an author of several books on the mass media and public relations: The Mission of the Media (2010); CensorshipThe Mission of the Media (2010); Public Relations or PR(2008) and Mass Media. Press, Radio and Television (2008). Currently, the publishing house of the university is preparing for printing the monograph Communication.

Sandra Veinberg is a member of ECREA, EUPRERA and the Swedish Journalists’ Association (Publicistklubben), Foreign Press Association of Sweden, FPA.

She is also known as a writer & journalist.

Homepages: 

Funding

Funding. The authors received no direct funding for this research.

 

 

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