Publications of Gábor Bernáth

Conversation with Roma communities on media-image: Resisting the interpretation of power

Our paper follows up on a piece of research that we conducted about the media representation of Roma in Hungary in the past decade. Although several research studies and publications discuss the media coverage of Roma, there are still very few studies that focus on the perception of this image by the Roma themselves. In this study (and paper) we aim to fill this gap. We organized focus group discussions with a Roma media audience and used cuts from mainstream media news to discuss their experiences, feelings and reactions to such news. In our analysis we will demonstrate that regardless of their social status or actual life circumstances, the Roma are consciously responding to manipulative media coverage of their communities. They routinely decode those narrative and visual representations by which the mainstream media regularly identifies their communities without acknowledging the ethnic bias of the news. They are reluctant to accept the legitimacy of those who claim to represent “the Roma” without being elected to do so, while they are also critical about the claims these self-appointed authorities, like Roma experts, or representatives make while replicating the ethnic majority’s stereotypes about the Roma. We explain the results of the research using the framework of identity theories and academic literature discussing the media’s role in constructing identities.