MONTREAL - The civil unrest consuming Quebec is also seizing media attention abroad — with more than 3,000 news reports from 77 different countries in recent weeks.
That's according to an analysis released Monday by Montreal-based company Influence Communication, which is monitoring Canadian and foreign media coverage of the conflict.
Influence analyst Caroline Roy said the student crisis generated 66 times more foreign news coverage in two months than Canada's entire mission in Afghanistan — this country's most extensive international undertaking since the Korean War.
"It's pretty significant and I would say that we have rarely seen Quebec get so much coverage internationally," Roy said.
She said the volume of foreign coverage spiked a couple of weeks ago, after Quebec adopted an emergency law that sets out to clamp down on demonstrations with strict rules and steep fines.
The nature of the coverage has shifted, even inside Quebec.
Earlier in the dispute, 79 per cent of news stories focused on the tuition-fee increase that initially ignited the student movement. More recently, however, only four per cent of the Quebec-based coverage has focused on the tuition hikes, the analysis said.
Lately the government has been attacked over its Bill 78, which critics are calling unconstitutional and trying to defeat in legal challenges. There have been more protests, in more cities, with more diverse crowds, since the legislation was adopted almost two weeks ago.
"All the tensions caused by the special law, led to an increase in the number of reports," Roy said.
"It's still going up."
Roy said foreign headlines about Quebec are usually related to subjects such as Montreal festivals, Cirque du Soleil, the provincial film industry and natural resources.
"But right now it's been completely eclipsed by the student conflict, and it's coverage that has lasted for several weeks," she said.
She added that much of the recent news wasn't positive.
A significant part of the coverage, she said, focused on nightly demonstrations in Montreal and their sometimes-violent confrontations between police and protesters.
The analysis found that in the last two weeks 39 per cent of what was written about Montreal, from around the world, included at least one of the following expressions: "massive arrests," "riots" and "violence."
Some international coverage has painted the protests in a more favourable light. Writers who follow the Occupy movement have been covering the situation in Quebec, even describing it as an inspiration for other social causes.
The company examined newspaper, TV, radio and online coverage of major international media organizations between March 22 and May 28. Influence monitors major media outlets in 160 countries.
It also analyzed coverage within Canada.
In Quebec, local media had already dedicated 20 per cent more news reports to the student crisis than their exhaustive, years-long coverage of the sponsorship scandal.
Influence found that the student conflict had already attracted more media attention in Quebec than any other story since 2001.
The unrest also generated more headlines in the province in a one-week period than any other event since 2001, except for 9-11, the 2010 Haitian earthquake and Barack Obama becoming president.
"But these were international events," Roy said.
"The student conflict is truly a subject that's purely Quebecois."