University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 13.12 Understanding the framing of issues in multi-actor arenas – power relations in the human rights debate (Meriläinen)

Start date: Dec 13, 2014 12:00 AM

End date: Dec 13, 2014 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, H320

Niina Meriläinen. Kuva: Antti LainasM.A. Niina Meriläinen defends her doctoral dissertation in Organizational Communication & Public Relations ”Understanding the framing of issues in multi-actor arenas – power relations in the human rights debate”. Opponent Adjunct Professor Mia Jaatinen (Aalto University) and custos Professor Marita Vos (University of Jyväskylä). Lectio is in Finnish but otherwise the event is in English.


This dissertation focuses on strategic use of framing in the multi-actor debate on human rights to create issue salience. The research results add to the understanding of the strategic choices made by actors in agenda setting and framing related to power relations in issue arenas. The results come together in a conceptual model of the framing processes involved. The results of this dissertation show how actors debate and make decisions concerning their communication.

Actors can belong to multiple networks and discuss in various issue arenas, and additionally not all actors interact in the same issue arenas. Competition may arise concerning causal relations as well as on how and in what context issues are debated and by whom, which consequently creates power relations, making some actors gatekeepers and some less central in the interaction.

Human rights issues are seen as important and universal. However, this is not the reality in the issue arenas influenced by selectiveness and power relations. What this research tells us is that, by using strategic framing in the communication, central actors can selectively push human rights issues and frames to the debate and create different causal relations between issues and actors.

By illustrating how framing is used as a tool in enhancing salience and creating a context of causal relations, this dissertation adds to the transparency of the human rights debate and, in particular, casts light on the processes of issue selection and framing. By opening up the human rights debate, the selective nature of issue debates is explained. With more transparency, all actors will be better equipped to participate in the debate, thereby benefiting the problem solving of human rights issues.

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities number 238, 199 p., Jyväskylä 2014, ISSN 1459-4323, ISBN 978-951-39-5956-2 (vol.). It is available in the University Library Publications Unit, tel. 040 805 3825,

Keywords: human rights, issue arenas, power relations, framing.

  • Further information:

Niina Meriläinen, +358 50 331 9441,

Communications intern Birgitta Kemppainen, +358 40 805 4483,