Pasko on the Rise of Blogs in Russia


Grigory Pasko has a new one over at Dialogue of Trust:

During the past three years it has become not only fashionable in Russia to keep an online diary – it has also become quite risky. The restrictions on free information in Russia led to a growth in independent media platforms and blogs written by people of various professional backgrounds, and from different age groups, are one such outlet and source of information. Russian bloggers express opinions about local events and, as a consequence, often suffer persecution from the authorities in their area. Since 2006 at least seven bloggers have been taken to court in various Russian cities and found guilty of a number of different offences. This year bloggers in Russia were again put on trial but there was no let up in their attempts to voice opinions, state positions and communicate problems to the country’s leadership.

In 2009 open video letters posted on the Internet and addressed tothe president, or to Prime Minister Putin, became particularly common.The most famous of these was the appeal published by Major AlexeiDymovsky, a police officer from Novorossiysk. He set an example and adozen more serving or retired policemen and prosecutors submittedsimilar video letters and blogs about corruption, lawlessness andcover-ups within the country’s law-enforcement agencies … The reactionsurprised no one in Russia. Neither Dmitry Medvedev nor the primeminister responded. Almost all these authors, however, suffered variousforms of retribution from their more immediate superiors.

If the Internet has become the last bastion of free speech in Russiathe forms of expression it there assumes are often quite unappealing.Irresponsible statements, muddled thought and a general atmosphere oflicense combine to hinder Russia’s bloggers in their efforts to becomemore articulate, to communicate better and (despite their individualistorigins) to join forces on shared projects.

It is no surprise, then, that the first “school for bloggers” washeld in Russia this year. It opened in February 2009 with the supportof the Centre for Education in Journalism (USA) and IJNet, theinternational journalists’ network. By the end of the year threeseminars for bloggers had already taken place – in Moscow,Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. They were organized by the GlasnostDefense Foundation, Russian partner of the new project. Such seminarshave helped bloggers in a number of different ways – improving theappearance and style of their contributions; learning about theworldwide web; getting acquainted with current trends in the mainstreammedia and social networking; and studying how to make professional useof photos, audio and video technology. One interesting detail. Formerpoliceman Igor Konygin, who attended the bloggers’ seminar in the Urals(Yekaterinburg), subsequently sent his video appeal to the Russianpresident and spoke out in support of Major Dymovsky.