ITAR-TASS’s coverage of annexation of Crimea


My main research interest is estimation of media biases using text analysis techniques. I did a very crude analysis of ITAR-TASS’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis two years ago, but it is time to redo everything with more sophisticated tools. I created a positive-negative dictionaries for democracy and sovereignty, and applied them to see how the Russian news agency cover events related to annexation of Crimea.

In the both charts, TASS’s (red) coverage shifts positively during the period between the announcement of the annexation (K1) and the referendum (K3). The change is visible not only in the absolute terms, but also in relation to Interfax’s (blue).


The positive shift is due to the positive coverage of two key events by TASS. When the mean score of the +-3 days of K2, when the question of the referendum was changed from independence from Ukraine to annexation to Russia, is calculated, its stories on Crimea sovereignty appear to be really positive (11.7 points higher than Interfax; p < 0.01). The second high point is the day of the referendum (K3), of course, when more than 95% of Crimeans allegedly voted for annexation. For the seven days period, the state of the democracy in Crimea becomes very good in TASS's news stories (4.09 point higher than Interfax; p < 0.02). Why can I compare TASS with Interfax? It is because their framing of Ukraine, excluding Crime, (bold) is more or less the same during the same period, and difference only found in Crimea must be due to difference in their status i.e. TASS is state-owned, while Interfax is commercial, and the interest of the Kremlin in Crimea.