Today’s communicative environment, including the rise of social media, makes journalists perform publicly as both professionals and private citizens. In these circumstances, practices of self-limitation and self-censorship may extend to online behaviour. In this article, we analyse what makes journalists in public affairs media limit themselves in expression, both in editorial production and in online posting. We ask whether their self-censoring is related to personal, editorial, or external factors; whether political threats triumph over personal self-branding and professional/commercial reasons and whether these factors work differently in editorial and online behaviour; and whether journalists behave differently on different social networks. To formulate the answers, we use the results of a survey of 95 journalists from 51 Russian regions and seven in-depth interviews. Our results show that, in an organisationally weak journalistic community that operates in a restrictive environment, understanding of self-censorship differs significantly from that in Western democracies. It includes both self-limiting under pressures and personal-level ethical decisions that substitute professional codes of conduct. Moreover, for online posting and editorial work, there are different dominant ‘perceived censors’. Political threats remain the most significant of all external pressures both online and offline, but personal motives lead the decision-making in posting on social networks. Russia is characterised by platform-wide echo-chambering and high differentiation between users of Facebook and the Russia-based VK.com (formerly Vkontakte). We observe this difference in journalists’ descriptions of self-limitation on these networks.
Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)