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9 Oct, 2009 10:52

ROAR: Blogger Medvedev

ROAR: Blogger Medvedev

Officials and regional leaders may find a new effective way of communicating with people if they follow the president’s example and start blogs, observers think.

Dmitry Medvedev was the first Russian leader to start a blog in the Internet. He posted his first video blog entry on October 7, 2008. It was dedicated to his speech at World Policy Conference, in Evian, France.

Starting the following January, registered users could post their comments on the president’s blog. In April 2009, Medevedev’s blog was mirrored on LiveJournal.com.

“The number of permanent and active blog participants has now exceeded twenty thousand (eleven thousand on LiveJournal and ten thousand on the official blog website),” Medvedev said.

Today, there are about 110 thousand comments on the president’s blog. “This is an enormous sum of opinions, suggestions, and ideas from the citizens of our nation,” Medvedev said.
The president, an active Internet user himself, considers his blog as a very useful means of communication, which allows him “to receive important information, to better understand citizens’ moods.”

The head of state assured users that he would continue “to work systematically with Internet blogs, even if some of our colleagues feel that this kind of work is not right for a president.”

Maksim Kononenko, a journalist and popular blogger known as Mr.Parker, is among those who believe that the president should use traditional means of communication with people rather than Internet. The value of people’s comments on the president’s blog is lower than the value of the same letters sent to the presidential administration by mail, he said.

“The mechanism of communication with the president has always existed,” Kononenko told BaltInfo news agency. “One could write a letter to the head of state and get an answer from him,” the journalist said, adding that he has done it himself.

Writing a letter, an individual thinks over the problem carefully, Kononenko said. Posting a comment on a blog, people “do not make efforts,” he added, referring to the situation when users consider blogs only as entertainment.

Andrey Ryabykh, the owner of the Media-Kartel Internet publishing house, disagrees with Kononenko. He believes that there are a lot of “administrative barriers” in the standard mechanism of communication with the president, when people send letters to him by mail.

Moreover, those who want to write a letter often do not realize their plans, he said. On the other hand, a blog “is a tool for the president’s communication with people,” he told the same agency.

“Of course, the head of state cannot reply to everyone himself, but it is enough to gather a team of experts [for this purpose], Ryabykh said. “I’m certain that this [project] will further develop,” he added.
Medvedev said that the blog may help citizens “to draw attention to problems in their areas.”

Referring to this statement, Ryabykh said that a blog is also effective as a means “to frighten officials.”“Everyone may complain to the president, and he might notice this information,“ Ryabykh said.

Political scientist Aleksey Chadaev thinks that the president’s blog “is a new genre which has to be improved.” He agrees with Medvedev that regional leaders should also have their websites and blogs.

However, it is strange to see the president “generating the initiative to actively develop the Internet sphere,” Chadaev told BaltInfo. He believes that citizens should be more creative and “set examples to the authorities.” But so far, “it seems that the state looks more up-to-date than society and the state is more inclined to modernize,” he added.

Kononenko believes that the president should not be too “accessible” to everyone. Users in the blogosphere treat others “as equals,” he said. The head of state, having posted his blog entry on LiveJournal, is now “like all the others,” Kononenko added.

However, Aleksey Belyaev, head of online projects at the Video International group, thinks that the Russian sphere of the Internet, with a big audience of active users, is a very effective means “of the communication between the authorities and citizens.”
He expanded on that by citing the absence of a “global system of bureaucratic filtration there, as in traditional media.”
“If officials manage to turn the Internet into traditional media, one can forget about its effectiveness,” Belyaev told Business FM radio.

Now more Russian officials are creating their blogs, he said. But not all of them use their entries effectively to communicate with citizens, he added.

Andrey Zamula, author of the Gubernatory 2.0 project, also thinks that few regional leaders understand how effective the Internet may be for communication between power and people. Most officials create blogs because “it has become fashionable,” he told Club-rf.ru website.
Unlike the president, who opened his blog entry on LiveJournal.com, “governors often create their blogs on official websites or regional resources,” Zamula said. It is difficult to call such projects blogs. They are, rather, a certain form of publishing official information, he added.

These blogs lack discussions and seldom publish people’s comments, much less a governor’s replies to these comments, the analyst said. As an example of a good regional leader’s blog Zamula cited that of Oleg Chirkunov, governor of Perm Region. Sometimes he posts several comments a day, and some of them are posted at night.

Nikita Belykh, governor of Kirov Region, also often writes on his blog at night. He once said that half of the region’s media got information from his entry. He considers his blog “a mechanism of communication with the media and public” and a mechanism of “getting feedback.”

Several other governors have blogs which are made by personnel of their press services. As a rule, few users read such entries. Sometimes regional leaders simply post videos on official websites of their administrations.

Medvedev hopes that leaders at a variety of levels, including regional and municipal leaders, “are gradually realizing the importance of being aware of their citizens’ concerns.” The president believes that “using a blog, leaders can learn what the citizens are thinking immediately, without having to wait for weeks to receive this information in the mail.”

Users are congratulating Medvedev on the first anniversary on his blog. But many of them are also using this opportunity to tell the president about their problems. Several people have suggested changes for the blog.

“You have been receiving important non-standard ideas that could not be received by other means,” user Mars Gaysin told Medvedev. “But the majority of users are complaining about the absence of the president’s reaction to these ideas,” he added. He called on Medvedev to let people know that their proposals are being used by the Russian leadership.

Mikhail Ushakov from Irkutsk Region also asked the president how many comments he has been able to read and “how many proposals from thousands” have proved to be necessary.

Another user, Denis Komarov from Tula Region, wrote that many want Medvedev to participate personally in discussions on his blog. However, because it seems to be impossible, the user asked the head of state to mark comments that Medvedev considers the most important. Komarov also wished the president “to continue to work hard.”

Sergey Borisov, RT