Mediated Public Diplomacy: Frame-building Contest Between the United States and Pakistan During a Conflict

Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
59 (1) 58 –75, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/00208817221085461
Research Article
Mediated Public
Contest Between the
United States and
Pakistan During a Conflict
Nisha Garud-Patkar1
This study examined the mediated public diplomacy (MPD) contest between the
United States (US) and Pakistan in promoting their preferred frames in foreign
media during a conflict: the death of Osama bin Laden. MPD is the process
through which a nation constructs favourable frames and communicates them via
the mass media to build a positive image in a foreign country (Entman, 2008) and
to promote its foreign policy. Using frame building and Entman’s (2008) theory
of MPD, the study first content analyzed news articles published in The New York
Times of the US and The Dawn of Pakistan and official releases published by the
governments in the two nations to investigate frames they constructed about the
death of bin Laden. Next, it analyses news articles published in the foreign media
of Australia, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to examine the extent to which these
frames were adopted by newspapers in these foreign nations. Analysis shows that
the US-sponsored frames (government and media) dominated the foreign media
in Australia, India and Saudi Arabia. However, in Egypt, the US was not successful
in promoting its preferred frames. The study concludes that in contested public
diplomacy over a single conflicting event, political and cultural proximities to a
foreign nation do not imply that a nation will be successful in dominating the
media of the foreign nation. The study suggests that MPD is a complex process
that involves multiple factors and their interactivity that determines successful
frame building in the international arena.
Mediated public diplomacy, USA, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden, frame building
1 San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, USA
Corresponding author:
Nisha Garud-Patkar, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192, USA
Garud-Patkar 59
Nation-states have become increasingly aware of the importance of public
diplomacy to control international media in order to build a favourable global
image and also to influence foreign policy. As part of the larger public diplomacy,
mediated public diplomacy (MPD) is seen as concentrated efforts of a nation to
construct favourable frames through mass media to build a positive image in a
foreign country (Entman, 2008; Sheafer & Gabay, 2009; Wanta et al., 2004).
This study examines MPD of the United States (USA) and Pakistan after the death
of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in four foreign nations.
Pakistan has built a negative image for itself because its politicians are
frequently alleged of providing shelter to terrorist organizations (Curtis, 2007).
Also, in the case of the US, the Iraq War and removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003
surged the anti-American sentiment among Muslims and created an unfavourable
view about the US foreign policy among the foreign public (Badie, 2010; Cox,
2004). The War on Terror was perceived as a failure and as an extension of the US
hegemony leading to loss of support from the international community (Badie,
2010; Kaufmann, 2004). Hence, USA and Pakistan engaged to capitalize on the
death of bin Laden to improve their global images. Specifically, this study
examines the contest of MPD between USA and Pakistan in promoting their
preferred frames about the death of bin Laden in foreign nations of Australia,
India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. We consider these nations because they have
experienced Al-Qaeda-sponsored terror attacks.
Countries involved in global controversies are in constant competition to
promote their preferred frames to foreign media (Benford & Snow 2000; Sheafer
& Gabay, 2009; Sheafer & Shenhav, 2009). Such frame contest is important
because foreign media greatly shape the manner in which their public perceive
conflicting events. Also, the foreign media are one of the limited sources of
information that the foreign public have about the event (Entman, 2008).
According to Entman (2004), MPD (public diplomacy plus media diplomacy)
involves the diffusion of frames from the government to its national media which
in turn are promoted to foreign media to leverage favourable framing for the
nation’s policies. Moreover, for Sheafer and Gabay (2009), the ‘strategic contest’
of MPD between two nations is achieved through the mechanism of frame
building. In this study, frame building is the process through which the state
officials in USA and Pakistan, along with the media in their country, make certain
aspects of bin Laden’s death salient in foreign media. Thus, this contest of MPD
involves five actors, the US government, Pakistan government, the US media,
Pakistan media and media in the four target (foreign) countries.
Factors that determine the success in promoting frames depend upon cultural
and political relationships between a nation and the target country (Entman,
2008). However, Sheafer and Gabay (2009) argue that successful frame building
also involves contesting with the frames that actors of a target nation exert over
their own media (target media). Moreover, the national media construct their own
frames that they promote to the foreign media (Sheafer & Gabay, 2009). Other
studies (Sheafer et al., 2014; Sheafer & Shenhav, 2009) focussed on strategic,

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