In modern democracies, the media play a key role in enabling citizens to make informed and effective choices about the exercise of state power. This function is particular critical during times of war. This study examined how the Norwegian and US press portrayed the Afghanistan War. The focus in the study was to examine what factors that can contribute to explain differences and similarities in the news coverage, departing from elite theories on press-government relations and structural features of the national political and media systems.
The study was conducted as a comparative content analysis of the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten, and the US newspaper, the New York Times. The time period examined was the later phase of the Afghanistan War. The results showed significant similarities in the news coverage across the two newspapers' reliance on official sources as well as a strong focus on the military aspects of the war. In both newspapers non-official sources represented only a small fraction of sources whereas official sources clearly dominated the news picture. Consequently, the analysis suggests that there seem to be a general relation between the news coverage and the government positions of the US and Norway and the news coverage in these two countries. However, the empirical findings also showed substantial differences in the two newspapers' news coverage that are likely to be explained by national differences in the political and media system. The thesis concludes by discussing the implications of the findings for the elites theories on press-government relations.