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The Press, National Identity, and the Shahbagh Movement : A Study of the Contemporary Politics of Bangladesh Open Access

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This study analyzes the role of three major Bangladeshi newspapers, Janakantha, Prothom Alo and Amar Desh, in shaping national identities in contemporary Bangladesh. I combine two methods: Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Content Analysis, to examine these newspapers’ content over three years: 2012, 2013, and 2014. By employing the CDA method, I closely examine the news texts of three high-profile events that occurred in 2013: Shahbagh movement, the murder of blogger Rajib, and the Hefajat movement, and find evidence of two competing camps in Bangladesh: “radical pro-Islam” and “radical pro-freedom fight”. Based on the critical discourse analysis of nine front-page articles’ related to these three events, this study observes a discursive construction of a radical “pro-Islam” narrative in the Amar Desh’s coverage and that of radical “pro-freedom fight” narratives in Janakantha and Prothom Alo’s coverage. In doing so, these two groups of newspapers construct a divided ideological world between “us” and “them”. My analysis demonstrates how the discourse of each newspaper creates meanings related to national identities and ideologies that serve to justify the interests of “us” and to criticize “them”. Based on the findings, I content analyze 914 front-page articles published in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and find that radical frames were present in Bangladeshi newspapers’ narratives even before the Shahbagh movement held in 2013. However, the quantity, frequency, and strength of the radical frames increased during and after the Shahbagh movement, particularly in 2013. Furthermore, these radical frames remained more prevalent in Bangladeshi newspaper coverage after the Shahbagh movement in 2014 than they were in the period before the uprising. A one-tailed t-test largely confirms the statistical significance of the findings of the content analysis with some variations. Also, the inter-coder reliability test of the content sample shows a strong agreement between the coders.

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