Abstract: The investigation of long-term trends in contentious politics relies heavily on protest event analysis based on newspaper reports. This tends to be problematic in restricted media environments. To mitigate the effects of bias and (self-)censorship, researchers of protest in authoritarian regimes have experimented with other sources such as international media and dissident websites. However, even though classical news media are easier targets for repression, journalistic reports might still outperform other sources regarding the quality of information provided. Although these advantages and disadvantages are known in the literature, different types of sources have seldom been tested against each other in an authoritarian context. Using the example of Russia between 2007 and 2012, the present article systematically compares protest event data from English-language news agencies, dissident websites, and several local sources, first and foremost with a view to improving methodological knowledge. The analysis addresses broad trends across time and space as well as the coverage of specific regions and single protest events. It finds that although the data sources paint different pictures of protest in Russia, this divergence is systematic and can be put to productive use. The article closes with a discussion on how its findings can be applied in other contexts.
Keywords: authoritarian regimes; media freedom; opposition; protest event analysis; Russia