Development of the Brahmaputra River, which links China, India and Bangladesh, has been hindered by significant challenges, particularly political challenges. News reports can mirror the perceptions of political actors, but are, owing to the complexity of the issue, complicated and unstructured. We present a comparative content analysis of the overall framing in news reports of the Brahmaputra River development from major English news media. A structural topic model is established to discover latent topics in the corpus of 1,569 news articles published in 34 countries or regions. We find that politics, including domestic and international politics, dominates the news narratives. Environmental issues, such as glacier status and climate change impacts, are secondarily discussed. Technology and economy issues are less frequently presented in the media coverage. Advantages of upstream countries and dependences of downstream countries are reflected in news reporting and explicitly emerge in the structural topic model. These findings and implications are important for promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among riparian countries in developing the Brahmaputra River. The proposed approach is expected to be widely used as a methodological strategy in future water policy studies.

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