Abeed, Manal (2017) News Representation in Times of Conflict: A Corpus-Based Critical Stylistic Analysis of the Libyan Revolution. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Despite the diversity of research on the Libyan Revolution across a spectrum of academic fields, very little work has focused on the representation of this event in media discourse. More specifically, no studies have approached this topic from a critical linguistic perspective using a large corpus, focusing on the qualitative analysis of the corpus findings. The overall aim of this thesis is therefore to investigate linguistically how the Libyan Revolution of 2011 is constructed within a corpus of British broadsheet newspapers. The focus of this study was to explore linguistic evidence to substantiate the claim that British newspapers are biased in their coverage in favour of anti-Gaddafi forces. The investigation of textual bias was guided and assisted by tools and methods from corpus linguistics. In particular, the keyword linguistic tool in WordSmith (Scott, 2004) was utilised as an entry point to the data to provide potential foci for further analysis. The findings of the corpus analysis revealed that keywords referring to the participants involved in the conflict during the Libyan Revolution and action-related words are the dominant lexical items in the coverage of this event in British newspapers. These corpus findings are further studied in context using the concord function in WordSmith, and then interpreted using the tools offered by Critical Stylistics (Jeffries, 2010). The occurrence of different nominal choices referring to the key participants in the Libyan conflict in the keyword list also led me to focus on investigating how those participants have been named and referred to linguistically. The analysis reveals linguistic evidence and discursive strategies showing a biased representation of the Libyan Revolution in the British newspapers in favour of anti-Gaddafi forces. This study has shown that the UK broadsheet newspapers represented a negative stereotypical image of Gaddafi’s side, while simultaneously presenting a neutral and at times even a positive portrayal of the opposition side. Specifically, the choices of linguistic structures result in the legitimation of Gaddafi’s opponents and, conversely, the delegitimisation and suppression of Gaddafi and his government. Finally, it was also observed that the language of British newspapers was highly ideological in representing this event despite British news outlets endorsing the values of democracy, freedom and universal rights.

It is important to also recognize that the wider social context influences the processes of production and interpretation of news discourse and helps to explain the reasons behind giving Gaddafi and his government the worst negative image. Considering the socio-political contexts and the close examination of the relation between Libya and Britain reveals that Gaddafi’s negative representation could be seen as a reflection of the excesses of his dictatorship over his own people during his years in power as well as a reflection of his accumulated stock of past wrongdoings and tense relations between him and Britain. Therefore, this representation could be taken as a fact, given Gaddafi’s historical background. However, the analysis reveals that there was unequal treatment of the two sides in the conflict. There was a complete lack of any mitigation on the description of Gaddafi’s side, whereas the rebel side are treated in an apologetic manner. The British newspapers are biased in covering up the violent actions that were committed by the opposition and their violation of human rights. It was obvious that British newspapers act as a dominant source of hegemony by deciding what and how to report. The analysis reveals that the British newspapers tried to support their government in their leading role in the military intervention in Libya. This confirms that news reporting is not free from the subjective interpretation of events, rather it constructs them in a way that reflects their ideological and political viewpoints. Overall, the positive representation of the opposition could be seen as a problematic, as the political consequence of overthrowing Gaddafi results in plaguing Libya in chaos and violence with internal wars run by rebels who were described as good during the revolution.

Manal Abeed FINAL THESIS.PDF - Accepted Version
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