Studies 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.
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