The country beyond the horizon

An analysis of journalism on West Papua in Swedish press, 1959–2009



The present thesis concerns Swedish journalism on West Papua, the western part of the island New Guinea. West Papua is a politically contentious area that since the 1960s is part of Indonesia, after a criticised UN-supervised referendum. The basic purpose of the thesis is to investigate the characteristics of a considerable part of the foreign and travel journalism on West Papua that was published in Swedish press during the period 1959–2009.

The primary material of the thesis comprises 387 press items, articles, and reports on West Papua, published in 27 different newspapers and periodicals. The material has been analysed by means of a qualitative framing analysis. Written secondary material is also included in the analysed material. The thesis adopts a cultural theoretical perspective, and draws on framing theory.

The comprehensive frame, identified in the primary material, is West Papua viewed as a primitive country. Four frames, characteristic of this general frame, are found in the foreign and travel journalism: 1) The primitive others as dangerous and destructive, 2) The primitive others as victims, 3) The primitive others as admirable, and 4) The primitive others as timeless and unchangeable. In the foreign and news material, a clear élite and big power perspective is apparent, which has been fundamental for when the conflict in West Papua is brought up on the journalistic agenda, and when it is not.

A power fortifying integration between the frame of West Papua as a primitive country, and the élite and big power perspective exist in the material that during the entire time period covered by this investigation, has resulted in the Papuans being made invisible, and/or maintaining the Papuans and the conflict in West Papua as something odd, not holding a high value. Few or no journalists in the research material had succeeded in freeing themselves from the élite and big power perspective, and from the frame of West Papua as a primitive country.

Show more


  • Type:
    Doctoral Thesis (peer reviewed)
  • Published:
  • Publisher:
  • Language:
  • ISBN:


Petersson, T. (2012). The country beyond the horizon: An analysis of journalism on West Papua in Swedish press, 1959–2009. Diss. Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.