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20 Sep, 2010 09:28

Bloggers will save the world

With blogging on the rise, it's becoming easier for many people to publish stories that are ignored by the mainstream media.

Desktops, laptops, phones and PDAs…. Internet in Russia is rapidly becoming much more available, and much more than just entertainment. For many, it has turned into a virtual speaker's corner, where their voice will not only be heard, but is guaranteed to echo across the country within hours.

There are vocal examples of how internet users can help solve complicated problems. In one instance, a video of a man posted online led to his dismissal. The man, who was the head of the local government, was bullying children at school but remained unpunished until the video went viral.

In another instance, one blogger managed to reach Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in order to help an orphan, Pasha Berezin.

A master chessplayer, a math genius and guaranteed state benefits, Pasha is missing the start of the academic year due to the demands of a construction company that helps fund the school.

“I want to be an IT specialist,” the boy told RT. “But the school said that if I want to study here and live in the residence halls, I have to study to be a builder.”

Pasha's case was taken on by a charity organization, Murzik.

Its founder, German Pyatov, says what made a difference to his case was a message he posted online to the president.

“After I posted my letter, someone from the president's office called and asked for details about this case,” Pyatov said. “I know they got in touch with Pasha's college, because almost immediately afterward, the college called and told Pasha to withdraw his application and basically get the hell out. They were scared that the authorities got involved. Then the media picked up the story, and the college was forced to stop its unlawful actions. They now allow Pasha to attend lectures, but still refuse to give him a room.”

When a bunch of kids vandalized a car in broad daylight in a remote part of Central Russia, police could not find the culprits for days.

But information they had provided allowed bloggers to find them in a matter of hours – names, addresses and license plates included.

So why is Russia's online community becoming suddenly so significant and influential?

“First of all, it is evidence of technological progress,” Sergey Grebennikov, deputy director of Russia's Association of Electronic Communications, told RT. “The internet is becoming more and more available, and because it is available, more and more people are using it for things other than work. It is a community, and a much faster one than any other.”

This spike in online use means it is not just journalists who can uncover information.

So what does this say about Russia's fourth estate?

“This doesn't mean that journalists are bad, and bloggers are better,” stressed Sergey Dorenko, editor in chief of Russian News Service. “Or that the only notion of free speech exists online. It's simply a matter of choice. We no longer want to watch someone else's rundown, we want to – and can – make our own. The internet allows us to choose what we want to know about, at a speed print or TV media simply cannot compete with.”

“Blogs have created a network that feeds new information into the oral system of horizontal communication – rumor – and together they embrace almost all of the country,” states Ivan Zasursky, founder of the online newspaper Chaskor.ru.

“As we know from physics there is a particle and there is a wave, and a particle can be a part of a wave. When you are a blogger – you are a particle, but when there is a huge thing happening – you are just one of the many particles to create a wave together.”

So maybe this is not the beginning of the end of newspapers and television – but it's definitely competition… of a global kind.