Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Although there is a plethora of literature on social movements in the fields of sociology and political science, fewer studies exist on the subject in the field of media studies, especially in Africa. While scholarship on the role of social media is emerging in recent years, the literature on the news media coverage of social movements vis-à-vis international human rights organizations that also have a role in shaping the discourse is absent. The aim of this project was, therefore, to understand the framing dynamics in the discourse around social movements by the international news media, local activists, international human rights organizations, and government officials. It analyzed the 2015-2016 Oromo protest movement against injustices by the Ethiopian government to examine: (1) the major themes highlighted by these actors, and 2) the framing dynamics between the actors’ frames. Qualitative framing analysis was used to examine texts of international news media outlets, Facebook messages of prominent Oromo activists, reports and statements of Human Right Watch and Amnesty International, and the Ethiopian government officials’ response to the protests. The findings reveal that three major themes—cause of the protest, government response to the protest, and call for action—dominated the texts of the news media, activists, and human rights groups. These themes were framed as various political and economic grievances, violence, and third-party intervention for justice, respectively. The themes and frames of the news media and human rights organizations largely supported the themes and frames highlighted by protest activists. Similar themes were highlighted in the texts of the government officials but were used to counter-frame the frames of other actors (ex: portraying the protesters as violent). The findings have significant implications. They may guide democratic social movement activists in the social media age who want to design similar protests against authoritarian governments in an international arena. The findings bolster existing studies on the use of collective action framing and the relationship between news media and activists. Additionally, the results suggest that international human rights organization are also “signifying agents” engaged in creating meanings and shaping discourse about social movements.