The student movement has always been at the centre of political change in Chile, which has resulted in tensions with the heavily monopolized media. These tensions have forced the student movement to resort to more alternative media outlets to both disseminate their information and to challenge the criminalization of their movement. In this context, this article sets to explore the attributions of motive in the representation of the Chilean student movement during a three-year period (2011-2013) in the mainstream and alternative press. Throughout this article, motive is understood as the implicit and/or explicit manifestation of an individual and/or collective’s drive or wish to do (or not do) something in a particular context. The corpus comprises over 3,000 news articles, which were analysed in the light of Harré’s (2010, 2015) Social Actor Positioning and van Leeuwen’s (2000, 2008) legitimation and purpose frameworks. Results show the use of specific ideological narratives that legitimize these actors’ motives in the media representation of this conflict. Similarly, the attribution of motives depends on the actors’ role in society and the kind of press analysed. Finally, there are irreconcilable ideological differences in the government’s understanding of the students’ right and duties and vice versa, which are heavily grounded in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.
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