RadioFreeEurope / RadioLiberty reports today that an increasing number of Russian citizens frustrated at pro-Kremlin biased television reporting are turning to blogs and Internet forums to debate political issues without government interference.
More than 1.1 million Russians use the online blog site LiveJournal. They have more than 67,500 interest groups and actively comment and post on a variety of topics. On the 5th of September alone, almost 500,000 comments were posted and 1,600 new users joined LiveJournal in Russia.
According to Masha Lipman, a political expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center, “There is indeed a lot of free exchange on the Internet.” Lipman says, “the question in Russia is not that there are no outlets where free expression is possible. The question is that the Kremlin has radically marginalized all outlets that pursue even reasonably independent editorial lines.”
Government or state-owned enterprises control the three main television channels in Russia. Only a handful of TV and radio stations and some national newspapers offer an alternative to the Kremlin’s view on current events and news stories. Additionally, the President, Vladimir Putin, has created an agency to monitor media and the Internet, sparking fears that this will further stifle opposition voices.
Parliamentary elections are due to be held in December, and a Russian presidential vote will be held next spring. As the elections draw near, Putin seems to be methodically shutting down free press. Last month the BBCâ€™s Russian-language broadcasts were chased out of Russian FM radio.
The Russian president was also in the midst of another, lighter controversy last month when a photograph of him fishing bare-chested was published in a national newspaper and then picked up by a number of gay blogs and chatrooms that convoluted the story accompanying the pictures to satire.