Media Activism as Movement? Collective Identity Formation in the World Forum of Free Media

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Media Activism as Movement? Collective Identity Formation in the World Forum of Free Media


  • Hilde C. Stephansen Department of History, Sociology and Criminology, University of Westminster, UK


Full Text   PDF (free download)
Views: 3151 | Downloads: 2268


Abstract:  More than simply tools used by social movements to reach other substantive aims, media are increasingly becoming subjects of activism. This article contributes to advancing understanding of such media-focused activism through a case study of the World Forum of Free Media, a thematic forum for media activists and media advocacy organisations linked to the World Social Forum. Based on qualitative research conducted between 2008 and 2016—including participant observation, in-depth interviews and textual analysis—the article critically explores the extent to which the World Forum of Free Media can be considered a ‘free media’ movement in the making, and examines some of the challenges and contradictions that such a movement-building project entails. Drawing on social movement theory, specifically the concept of collective identity, it analyses efforts by forum organisers to mobilise a very diverse range of actors—from alternative media activists to policy- and advocacy NGOs—around a plural and inclusive ‘free media’ identity. While the World Forum of Free Media has to some extent succeeded in facilitating convergence around a set of core principles and ideas, it has so far struggled to develop a clear outwards-facing identity and mobilise a broad grassroots base.

Keywords:  alternative media; collective identity; communication rights; FMML; media activism; media democracy movement; social movements; World Forum of Free Media; World Social Forum

Published:   22 September 2017


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v5i3.1034


© Hilde C. Stephansen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.