The research project focuses on the beginning of the transformation processes in Eastern Europe in 1988/1989 and in North Africa in 2010/2011, and aims to investigate the role of media in breaking up the authoritarian political structures. The researchers presuppose that mass media can have a mobilizing effect on the transformation of political regimes. However, the existence of such an effect depends on specific structural conditions, actor constellations and certain “media logic” incorporated in the media system and the actors’ approaches. Based on research on media and transformation, theories of public sphere and counter-public as well as on social movements, we build an innovative theoretical framework, combining system- and actor-centered approaches.



The aim of the project is two-fold:

1) to present a theory-based, empirical comparison of media functions that helped to form a counter-public in three transitional countries of Eastern Europe in 1988/ 1989 (Hungary, Poland, Romania) and North Africa 2010/2011 (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) by taking into account structural conditions, actor constellations and media logics in each country

2) to build, inductively, a model of the effects of mass media in emerging political transformation processes using the results of the comparison.

The project systematically combines several methods in order to achieve these objectives. Following the literature review and document analysis from which we derive the structural conditions, we identify and classify the relevant actors by means of a content analysis. During the final stage of the empirical research, we will conduct expert interviews in which we will ask these actors about their motivation and media orientation. The field research will thus provide the material to substantiate the theoretical dimensions of the model empirically.  




Eastern Europe 1989/1990


North Africa 2010/2011









Overhead image: The Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in Tunis, Tunesia, from 14-17 May, 2015. Photographer Michael von der Lohe, License CC BY-SA 2.0 (, Source: