Chung-hong Chan, Hartmut Wessler, Marc Jungblut, Kasper Welbers, Scott Althaus, Joseph Bajjalieh, Wouter van Atteveldt
Challenging the Global Cultural Conflict Narrative: An Automated Content Analysis on How Perpetrator Identity Shapes Worldwide News Coverage of Islamist and Right-Wing Terror Attacks

International Journal of Press-Politics, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 1940-1612 (print), 1940-1620 (online)

Recent terrorist attacks such as the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019 renew the discussion of whether right-wing attacks are reported less negatively than Islamist attacks. To clarify this point, our study is the first to combine the selection of media inside and outside the West with a distinction between Islamist and right-wing attacks. We compare coverage given to thirty-two right-wing and forty Islamist attacks from 2015 to 2019 in nine Western and eight non-Western English-language media outlets, tapping the differential use of the “terrorist/terrorism” label and textual sentiment. Both (many) Western and (some) non-Western media use this label more frequently in the coverage of Islamist attacks. Importantly, public diplomacy channels from non-Western countries such as China Daily and Sputnik also demonstrate this pattern. Delegitimizing Islamist attacks more than right-wing attacks thus cannot be explained as merely a Western phenomenon alone. We point to alternative explanations and call for greater standardization of coverage across Islamist and right-wing attacks.