Mind the gap: Connecting news and information to build an anti-rape and sexual assault agenda in India
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This dissertation will examine the use of news media and social media platforms by feminist activists in building an anti-rape and sexual assault agenda in India. Feminist campaigns need to resonate and interact with the mainstream media and social media simultaneously to reach broader audiences, including policymakers, in India. For a successful feminist campaign to take off in a digitally emerging country like India, an interdependence of social media conversations and news media discussions is necessary. The study focuses on the theoretical framework of agenda building, digital feminist activism, and hybridization of the media system. The study will also introduce the still-emerging concept of interdependent agenda building to analyze the relationship between news media and social media. This concept proposes the idea of an interplay of information between traditional mass media and social media, by focusing not just on one media platform, but on multiple platforms simultaneously in this connected world. The methodology of the study includes in-depth interviews with thirty-five feminist activists and thirty journalists; thematic analysis of 550 newspaper reports of three rapes and murders from 2005-2016; and social media analysis of three Facebook feminist pages to understand and analyze the impact of social media on news media coverage of rape and the combined influence of media platforms on anti-rape feminist activism. The introduction of social media platforms in newsroom influence coverage of rape and sexual assault on women, and assess the reasons behind selective media and public outrage against rape and sexual assault. In this dissertation, I also focus on the intersectional identity of feminist activists and how they align their offline anti-rape activism and inequalities of caste, gender, class, digital access and literacy. As a recommendation of this study, I created a beta version of an app, which will support anti-rape feminist activism and rape coverage by bridging the information and coverage gap of rape and sexual assault.