Anthrax, vaccinations and climate change in the media reports of the 2016 Yamal emergency

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.4 Sustainable development of the Arctic - boreal regions
Presentation Type Poster
Author(s) Dmitry Yagodin (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Abstract text

In July 2016, Russian media reported on an anthrax outbreak on the Yamal peninsula. The extremely hot weather was first to blame, followed by numerous references to global climate change. High temperatures were seen causing permafrost melting and the “awakening” of anthrax bacteria that infected thousands of reindeer. Dozens of children had to be hospitalized, at least one child died. While climate-related explanations in the media lowered liabilities of the local officials, a number of competing versions, including about improper vaccinations and excessive commercialization of reindeer herding, were widely discussed too. Based on the content analysis of local, regional, and national media outlets, this study clarifies the role of mass media in raising public awareness about climate-induced health threats. I use methods of discourse analysis to investigate the ways media had framed potential causes of the emergency, as well as the immediate solutions and future preventive measures. My research looks at these aspects from a standpoint of communication policy networks wherein a guiding theoretical question is how local public issues transform into media and policy agenda, potentially also rearticulating the problem of climate change. Previous research has shown quite convincingly that environmental journalism and especially the theme of climate change are at a rather low level in the professional and news hierarchy of Russian media. This is particularly visible in the results of international comparisons.