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Reportage in the lands of the ‘semi-free’: A comparative study of online political journalism in Georgia and UkraineStudies examining the democratizing potential of new media have tended towards a somewhat myopic anglocentrism, which has characterised much of the ensuing debate and therefore failed to fully predict the effects in other contexts and cultures. While the obviously deficient media environment of the Arab world attracted global attention post Arab Spring, and some attempts have been made to examine the impact in other overtly authoritarian regimes, this article argues that the most revealing dynamic is elsewhere: in ‘west-facing’ post-Soviet countries which embrace concepts of media freedom and democracy yet fail to fully implement them. In these media environments, sometimes described as ‘semi free’ (Robakidze, 2011), web access is often very high, partly driven by the failures of the mainstream independent press to capitalise on the post-Communist environment combined with recent limitations on the freedom of the press. Two countries on similar political trajectories, Ukraine and Georgia, are examined in this article. Both experienced so-called ‘colour revolutions’ in the early 2000s, with ‘media freedom’ a fundamental part of protestor’s demands, yet the underpinning cultural context differs considerably. Through the use of immersive interviews with journalists in both countries, the article identifies the emergence of ‘hub websites’ specialising in independent political journalism, around which an engaged and politically active population is coalescing.
Shades of expression: Online political journalism in the post-colour revolution nationsThe Colour Revolutions in the former Soviet Union were arguably the twenty-first century’s first successful attempts to overthrow political elites through mass protest and civic society activism. They are of intrinsic interest to media scholars because concepts of media freedom were located at the heart of the protests against semiautocratic post-Communist regimes and have continued to characterise political debate in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The ideals that underpinned the events were echoed several years later in the Arab world, and both initially involved influential networks of activists ranged against political elites. The events of the Arab Spring were often facilitated and given added impetus by the advances in news media technology which had taken place over the latter half of the decade and which allowed for more effective networked communications and a more open public sphere to thrive, even in autocratic environments. But while the role of evolving media technologies has been extensively analysed and critiqued in the context of the Arab world, its use in the more mature post-Revolution environments of the former Soviet Union has been largely overlooked. This book captures a “snapshot” of the contemporary role of online journalism in rapidly evolving post-Soviet, post-Colour Revolution political environments, exploring the wider journalistic and political context alongside the use and influence of online news sites. In particular, it aims to fill a gap in the literature by undertaking qualitative work in the post-Colour Revolution nations which seeks to assess the views of active journalists on the role of online political journalism in those environments.