Cherishing past protests
As work on the project has unfolded, it has become apparent that broadcasters do not only cover ongoing protests: they also bring to their audiences reports about demonstrations that took place in the past. For this reason, a variable was created that lets us capture whether a news item has in focus a protest that is currently taking place, or one that has already happened.
This week, Euronews provided a good example of this, broadcasting a piece about the 1956 protests in Hungary against the Soviet Union. The report tells the story of what is identified as a ‘revolution’ (although it did not lead to a regime change at that time), documenting it with black-and-white footage from six decades ago and the contemporary testimony of a witness. While the grey of the images of the past contrasts with the colours of today’s Budapest, the speaking actor – a man who, as a student at that time, witnessed the events – brings them together.
The uprising that was started 60 years ago in Budapest by a group of students turned into what would now be labelled a pro-democracy movement, with people demanding independence from Moscow and free elections. The protests failed – the movement was crushed by Soviet troops, and thousands of people died in the confrontations between Hungarian protesters and Soviet soldiers. But the Euronews report reminds us that a movement need not be successful for it to stay alive in the collective memory of a community. And in this work of memory and community, media such as television play an essential role, for they have the power to tell people which events are worth remembering and which may be forgotten.
Screening Protest — "Cherishing past protests," in The Screening Protest Project, October 23, 2016