Project: Political corruption in the media: a comparative perspective
Project reference
: FCT PTDC/IVC-COM/5244/2012
Funding: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Knowledge of political corruption in the media and social networks from a comparative perspective has great social and scientific relevance both in Portugal and in the other countries included in the project. According to the 2011 Eurobarometer, 97% of the Portuguese believes that corruption is the major problem in the country. Inquired for national surveys, the Portuguese claim that their impressions are based on the media. Studies conducted by [SoTr08] on perceived corruption have concluded that the Portuguese form their opinion based on the media. Official figures evidence that the number of corruption trials is low when compared to the perception of corruption obtained through the media. Those works do not include the study of corruption in media coverage.The project Political corruption in the media: a comparative perspective aims to fill in this gap. It is a pioneering study whose innovative approach consists of: 1. the study of political corruption in traditional media and in its electronic editions; 2. studies on social networks, particularly political blogs; 3. its comparative perspective regarding four countries from the Iberian-American-African sphere (Brazil, Mozambique, Spain, Portugal). In those countries, we shall analyse a set of political corruption cases that have received nation-wide coverage. The corpus will be identified by each partner and the methodology to be used shall be similar to that of the Portuguese project. It shall focus on the coverage of political corruption cases with major impact and international partnership, which occurred during the period from 2005 to 2010. During this period, the country has had two elections: for Parliament and for President of the Republic. Among the candidates to both elections there were politicians mentioned in political corruption cases. Portugal has been, since March 2011, under a program of international financial assistance, whose guidelines provide for reforms that can open opportunities for corruption, especially given the strong promiscuity between public and private interests.The financial and economic crisis has also resulted in very negative consequences to the media,generating dependence on official or semi-official sources and sensationalism. Political corruption is understood as the abuse of power for one’s own benefit perpetrated by democratically elected officials, during or after the exercise of public functions. It involves a diverse range of crimes committed by current and former political agents, which occur mainly along the lines of four typical situations: while competing for political duties, during the exercise of public duties, while legislating and ruling, as well as after stepping down from office, while maintaining certain functions in the party and political fields. Political corruption tends to articulate the domains of politics, economy, justice and media (BlE02). The methodological strategy of our research covers both a structural dimension and an operational dimension. The former addresses the outline of media and political systems of each individual country included in the project, in light of the work by [HaMa04]. The analytical instruments are, in this dimension, documental and statistical research and semi-structured interviews with media, politics and justice professionals. The operational dimension consists of an analysis of the apparent content of selected media, through quantitative and qualitative content analysis, completed with interviews to journalists who have done work on corruption cases. In order to pursue an analysis of blogs, we shall resort to new tools and methodologies provided by Web 2.0.

The project shall produce data on the national contexts of the countries involved. It shall also contribute to the development of new methods of linking social sciences and humanities, including comparative studies on media and journalism in the Iberian region and the Portuguese-speaking world, for the first time covering the social networks, including blogs, in order to produce conclusions on their influence in the traditional media. The results of this research will enable us to design training and awareness-raising programs in accordance with a scientific basis, aimed at journalists, local officials, judiciary agents and political players from the participating countries. The project is led by Isabel Ferin Cunha (researcher in media analysis and Political Communication, Main Researcher in project Journalism and democracy acts (ERDF/FCT, POCTI/COM/2002/443. The team includes several researchs with experience in the coordination of previous projects backed by FCT and other investigation institutions. The head researcher has supervised the master’s deree thesis of the author of the book Political Scandal in Portugal. Maia produced a master on Preceptions of Corruption. Serrano, Gonçalves and Cabrera have extensive experience on media analysis and Political Communication.