The News Media Representation of Female Ex-combatants in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka

  • Ashleigh McFeeters

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates newspaper representations of female ex-combatants in the divided societies of Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka from 2009 until 2015. The news media communicate information which is used by news consumers to construct their versions of reality, thus news media characterisation is a crucial component of study in post-conflict societies, especially when most academic research focuses on the news media and conflict, rather than post-conflict. Female ex-combatants are a vital ingredient in conflict transformation, due to the mainstreaming of gender which is advocated by international bodies such as the United Nations (UN); and the involvement ex-combatants is believed to contribute to a robust peace. The newspapers in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka are divided and analogous to the dichotomous ethno-national groups of each society, thus, the aims of this study were to compare how the newspapers represent female ex-combatants within each case, and between each case; and to theorise the reasons behind, and implications of, such portrayals. This thesis shows that in Northern Ireland, the highest proportion of articles about female ex-combatants is negative, whereas in Sri Lanka the highest proportion is positive. In Northern Ireland, female ex-combatants are associated with the Troubles and the past; and they are paired with victims of the conflict. In Sri Lanka, the women are depicted alongside rehabilitation and their contribution to the future of Sri Lanka. In both cases, the women are represented using gendered stereotypes, and this is particularly pronounced in the low level of direct speech attributed to the women in the news articles. The purpose of this thesis is to provide evidence of how female ex-combatants are represented in the news media, and to hold the news media to account over partisan and sexist reporting.
Date of Award30 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJohn Brewer (Supervisor) & Julia Paul (Supervisor)

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