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Comunicar Journal 72: The disinformation society: The impact of fake news on the public sphere (Vol. 30 - 2022)

Russian disinformation in Eastern Europe. Vaccination media frames in ro.sputnik.md


Andreea-Alina Mogoș

Teodora-Elena Grapă

Teodora-Felicia Șandru


The news site ro.sputnik.md is the Romanian language version of the Sputnik news website platform, owned by the Russian government, one of the main channels used by the Kremlin to disseminate mis- and disinformation across Russian borders. The current research aims to identify the frames associated with anti-COVID-19 vaccines, and the news values employed in constructing news discourse on vaccination in ro.sputnik.md media texts. To map the media frames and the lexical and discursive constructions, the research proposes a mixed methods content-based approach, where automated text analysis (frequency, co-occurrence, n-grams) is combined with thematic and discourse analysis. Six emphasis frames are identified in the corpus (N=1,165): Superiority of the Russian Sputnik V Vaccine, Fatal/Side Effects of EU Authorized Vaccines, Limitations of Individual Rights and Freedoms, EU and/or Romanian Authorities’ Struggle, Children and Teenagers’ Protection, and Big Pharma Conspiracy. The findings show that specific discursive patterns are associated with the negative news value: death, side effects (blood clot, thrombosis, coagulation), restrictions, and interdictions or warnings (serious, risk, negative, panic, etc.), while the conflict news value is associated with warfare vocabulary (defense, threat, battle, fire, gunpowder, etc.); and eliteness, with well-known actors (state leaders, European leaders, famous "conspirators'') and countries (powerful international actors, meaningful neighbours).


Media framing, news values, content analysis, textual analysis, COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik News